FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots’ offense was dealt a serious blow Wednesday when it was revealed that starting left tackle Nate Solder will be lost for the rest of the 2015-16 campaign.
According to a team source, Solder will require season-ending surgery for a torn right biceps suffered late in the first half of Sunday’s 30-6 victory over the Cowboys in Arlington, Texas.
Solder walked the sideline on his own after the play and didn’t appear to be in great pain. Following the game, Solder downplayed the injury and indicated to reporters he thought he might be going back into the game.
“Yeah, that was a call they made and we’re just going to roll forward and see what happens,’’ the 6-foot-8-inch, 325-pound Solder said before exiting the locker room with an ice pack on his arm.
Solder, who signed a two-year contract extension worth just over $20 million in September, and the rest of the offensive line struggled early against the Cowboys as Tom Brady was sacked five times for 28 yards in the first half.
Solder was injured while blocking Dallas’ Tyrone Crawford. As Solder engaged Crawford, the defensive tackle angled to Solder’s right and appeared to tug on his arm before shoving him, breaking free, and sacking Brady. Solder immediately grabbed his arm and headed to the sideline.
Solder has been very durable since New England took him with its first draft pick in 2011 (17th overall). He has missed just one game (in 2013, because of a head injury) over that time. He took over protecting Brady’s blindside in 2012 after longtime left tackle Matt Light retired.
Marcus Cannon, who filled in admirably and played the entire second half in Dallas, when the Patriots yielded zero sacks, is the logical candidate to replace Solder, who lauded Cannon for his performance against the Cowboys.
“He did awesome, yeah,’’ Solder said after the game. “And good for him. He went in there and played great.’’
The Patriots also have the option of moving right tackle Sebastian Vollmer over to the left side. Vollmer did play there his rookie season, including five starts.
The Patriots placed Solder on injured reserve Wednesday and claimed defensive back Rashaan Melvin off waivers from the Ravens to fill his roster spot.
As for adding depth on the line, the team has three offensive linemen on the practice squad, including tackles Cameron Fleming (who was practice squad player of the week last week) and Blaine Clausell, and guard Chris Barker.
“I think it’s great that we have guys that can come in seamlessly and transition in and play, and I think that’s our job as football players [to be prepared],’’ Vollmer said Wednesday when asked about Cannon’s ability to jump into action. “I think it’s a credit to [Cannon].’’
Cannon, who has rotated in regularly at both tackle spots this season and has some experience at guard as well, said the “next man up’’ mentality is a must in football. Whether you’re a starter or the last player on the depth chart, you have to be ready when you’re summoned.
“We have to do our job, that’s what they expect from us,’’ Cannon said Wednesday. “You have to understand who you’re playing against and if they want to put you in, you gotta play and you should do just as good as everyone else because you had the same preparation.’’
Coach Bill Belichick said Cannon’s versatility has made him a big asset along an ever-shifting offensive line. New England has used 11 different combinations this season, tied for tops in the league.
“Marcus has been very adaptable, playing on both sides, playing inside, outside, also played some jumbo tight end,’’ said the coach. “I think he’s just a flexible guy that really just wants to play and whatever you ask him to do he goes out there and does the best he can.’’
Belichick said the fact that Cannon had played so often this season was a big reason he was able to step in and help neutralize the Dallas pass rush.
“Marcus has always played well for us,’’ he said. “Two years ago when he was in for Vollmer, last year the opportunities that he had early in the year, particularly at tackle, and then this year he’s played in every game, played a number of snaps in all of our games, so he’s always done a good job for us when he’s been in there. I’m glad we have him.’’
Earlier in the week, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels talked about how impressed he was with Cannon’s performance in Dallas.
“He’s played a lot of good football for us, and we have a lot of confidence in Marcus,’’ he said. “He went in there the other day and he held up well and did a good job with the things we asked him to do. I’m sure he’ll be ready to go again if that’s the case.’’
His next opportunity comes Sunday night in Indianapolis.