There was plenty to talk about after yesterday’s fifth training camp practice. Julian Edelman, Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Lloyd were excellent on offense and the trifecta of Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington and Ras-I Dowling in the defensive backfield definitely showed some improvement.
But a really interesting battle brewing was between the Patriots most recent first-round draft choices, offensive tackle Nate Solder and outside linebacker Chandler Jones. ESPNBoston.com’s Field Yates wrote this about what went down when the two tussled:
Chandler Jones best(ed) Nate Solder on an impressive push/pull maneuver in the opening act. Jones started his move by power rushing into Solder, before aggressively yanking the left tackle towards him, throwing the towering Solder off balance and freeing a lane for Jones to close on the area where the quarterback would be. The second go-around was closer to a stalemate, with Jones attempting a side scissors move, which involves him taking two arms to the side of Solder and attempting to knock him off his spot. Though Jones wasn’t able to fully execute (Solder rode him out of the pocket area), it’s an impressive move from a rookie. Strong work from both.
In all honesty, I had serious doubts about Solder at the beginning of last season. While I thought he had the size and skill to eventually be a starting left tackle in this league, there were too many mental mistakes and too much inconsistency to be confident he would be a starter any time soon. But with injuries to the offensive line abounding last year, the Colorado product had to step up to the plate and was doing quite well by season’s end. Is he ready to fill the large void left by Matt Light’s retirement? From the sounds of it, he could be (and, frankly, will have to even if he’s not). His one-on-one with Jones highlighted work still left to done (it’s never really finished, after all) but Jones is arguably the best pure rusher Solder’s seen in either of his Pats camps and holding his own so well is a testament to the strength he’s developed, physically and mentally.
Jones, meanwhile, was always something special. Call it a little Orange bias (I’m a proud Syracuse University alum), but watching Jones in his senior year at SU, you could tell this kid has serious potential. From Yates’ report, it sounds like he’s bringing the same things that elevated his collegiate game into the pros: he’s willing to take chances and go as far as his powerful motor will take him in a play. Jones has a plethora of moves in his repertoire, and he will be a monster on the field, as soon as he gets a handle on the mental side of the NFL. Because as we’ve all learned over the years, rookies looking great in camp doesn’t always immediately translate to rookies looking great on the field. In front of 50,000 people. Against the best of the best. Learning curve, people.
Still, I’m excited to watch how Solder and Jones continue to develop over the course of camp and the preseason. I said last month that Jones not only would contribute in his first season with the Pats, he would have to. Looks like he’s well on his way to being a contributor.