By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Covering the Patriots often comes with a lot of mystery and intrigue. Left tackle Nate Solder made sure to add a healthy dose of it to this weekend’s game against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium.
It’s unclear whether Solder will play on Sunday. He was limited in Wednesday and Thursday’s Patriots practices with a hamstring injury and Cameron Fleming looks to be preparing as if he’s once again the starter against Miami. The offensive line may have held up well enough against the Arizona Cardinals, but against Ndamukong Suh and the matchup nightmare he presents on the field, they will need all the help they can get in the trenches.
“I’m really excited [for the game], it’s going to be awesome,” said Solder on Sunday’s home opener. “It’s going to be a tough opponent and I’m excited to get the opportunity to play out there.”
The key word there is “opportunity.” Even if Solder ends up active for the game, who knows how many snaps he will get?
The Patriots are also banged up on the right side of the offensive line, where right tackle Marcus Cannon is dealing with a knee injury while guards Shaq Mason and Jonathan Cooper are dealing with injuries of their own. All three were limited on Wednesday and Thursday.
That is where Suh (and Cameron Wake) will likely line up, and at the very least, the Patriots will need to devote extra bodies to blocking him. They may ultimately slow Suh down and keep him away from Jimmy Garoppolo, but it would probably come at the cost of other guys busting through. Mario Williams (concussion) may not play, so that helps.
Look for a similar offensive game plan from the Patriots on Sunday that you saw in Arizona, getting the ball out of Garoppolo’s hands quickly to mitigate any problems Suh could cause. But the former Detroit Lion can get to the quarterback as quickly as any player in the league and if the line can’t bottle him up he could cause the entire operation to break down. He’s that much of a freak.
Center David Andrews will also likely see some time having to block Suh, and is well aware of the challenges in front of him. The entire offensive line will need to work well as a unit to have success – a tall order for an injury-riddled, depleted group.
“It’s a big thing every week for everyone to be on the same page,” said Andrews. “We’ve got to do that first and then we’ve got to go out there and block them. … [It comes down to] getting on the same page, and knowing each other to do our job, and we have 11 guys on the same page, so that’s where it all starts.”
It starts with getting on the same page, but hopefully there’s room for Solder.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. His opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.