- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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The AFC East blog continues its series on players who have a lot to prove in 2012. Next up we have the new starting left tackle of the New England Patriots.
Nate Solder, Patriots
2011 stats: 13 starts
What he has to prove: Solder has huge shoes to fill. He has to prove that he can replace a Patriots legend in Matt Light, who recently retired after a stellar career with New England. Light was a reliable force at left tackle protecting quarterback Tom Brady's blind side most of Brady's career. The change will put a huge spotlight on Solder. Left tackle is even more important now that Brady, 34, is getting near the tail end of his career. The Patriots drafted Solder in the first round in 2011 with this in mind. But perhaps Solder is taking on such a pivotal role a little earlier than expected.
Walker's 2012 outlook: I don't have as many concerns as others have about Solder. I thought he was composed and did a solid job filling in as a rookie for injured right tackle Sebastian Vollmer. Solder started in some big games and played well. The only concern I have is the added pressure of playing on the left side. Solder often will face an opponent’s best pass-rusher trying to cause turnovers by getting to Brady’s blindside. Solder is built like a left tackle and should eventually do well. But the Patriots have to hope he doesn’t have too many growing pains in his sophomore season.
3dField Yates and Rich Cimini