|AP Photo/ Steven Senne|
Patriots left tackle Nate Solder left during the second half of yesterday's loss to the Dolphins. He was almost immediately ruled out with a "head injury", forcing the Pats to scramble and move guard Logan Mankins to left tackle for the rest of the game.
All signs point to this being a concussion for Solder. It's an alarming trend for the man tasked with protecting Tom Brady's blindside, as this becomes the fourth diagnosed concussion of Solder's three year career. Solder also had two concussions in 2011, his rookie year.
Solder had suffered a concussion at some point last week (it's unclear when, as he never left the field in New England's dramatic win over Cleveland) and was listed as "questionable" for yesterday's game after missing practice during the week as part of the league's concussion protocol. After working out that morning before the game, the Patriots deemed him in good enough shape to play.
The news could be a big blow to an offensive line that is already short Pro Bowl right tackle Sebastien Vollmer. The Pats in game response was to move Mankins to left tackle, with Josh Kline sliding into Mankins spot at left guard. As a result, Tom Brady was under duress for most of the second half. Brady was only sacked once, but was hit seven times, with five of those coming from former CFL star Cameron Wake.
The Patriots are fortunate to have several players on their roster with left tackle experience, although none of them can match the abilities of Solder. Mankins and right tackle Marcus Canon both protected their quarterback's blind side in college, while veteran Will Svitek played both tackle positions while a member of the Atlanta Falcons.
The best option with regards to continuity would be to play Svitek at left tackle should Solder have to miss any significant time (certainly a possibility with two concussions in such a short time period). This would allow Mankins and Canon to remain in the positions they are best suited for, as neither have the elite athleticism necessary to deal with the league's best pass rushers. Svitek played well when filling in for Canon earlier this season and was a solid performer when called upon in Atlanta as well.
The team might need to help Svitek more with chips from tight ends and running backs against star pass rushers, but such is life when you potentially lose your starting left tackle. We'll probably find out shortly, as Baltimore's dynamic duo of Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil are up next on the schedule for the Patriots.