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Tebow role tough act to replicate

By Michael Whitmer
Globe Staff / December 14, 2011
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Going up against one of the most unconventional quarterbacks in the NFL will be tough enough for the Patriots come Sunday. Finding someone to play Denver’s Tim Tebow in practice this week won’t be easy, either.

Brian Hoyer, the Patriots’ backup quarterback, usually assumes the role of the opposing team’s signal-caller during practice so the defense can adequately prepare. But Hoyer’s an inch shorter than Tebow, 20 pounds lighter, doesn’t run as well, and is not lefthanded. Perhaps finding a suitable stand-in will fall on someone else this week?

“That’s something we definitely have to talk about,’’ coach Bill Belichick said. “The most important thing for our defense is to get a good look at as close to what the actual plays are going to look like as we can replicate them.

“However we do that, whichever players we use to try to get that look . . . we’ll definitely talk about that and try to do it in the way that gives the defense the best look at it.’’

Julian Edelman is also smaller than Tebow, and like Hoyer is righthanded, but the receiver/returner/defensive back played quarterback at Kent State, and might be a good choice.

Kudos from Belichick

Tebow met with the Patriots prior to the 2010 draft, dining with Belichick in the North End. Belichick, friends with Urban Meyer, Tebow’s coach at Florida, spoke about what he remembered from the visit.

“We brought Tim in and spent a whole day with him here, in addition to our other interactions with him,’’ Belichick said. “He’s an impressive young man. He had great success in college, I think all his attributes are pretty well documented. He’s a strong guy, smart, works hard, a great leader, great football character.’’

One question leading up to the draft - Tebow was taken by the Broncos in the first round with the 25th pick - was if a team would be willing to give Tebow a shot at playing quarterback, or if he’s be better suited at a different position. Nick Caserio, the Patriots’ director of player personnel, said the team evaluated him for only one position.

“I don’t really think there was any other position he played,’’ Caserio said. “He was a quarterback, and that’s what we evaluated him as.’’

Solder heads home

Sunday is a trip home for Nate Solder, a Denver native who played at Colorado before being drafted by the Patriots in the first round (17th overall) of this year’s draft.

Solder has been a key piece of the offense this season: He started the opener at right guard because of an injury to Sebastian Vollmer, and has appeared in all 13 games.

“It’s been a great opportunity. I didn’t know what to expect,’’ Solder said. “I just prepared the best that I can, and it worked out great, I guess. I’m happy for the opportunity to play so much.’’

He’s shown his versatility, getting some time at tight end in the Patriots’ power package.

“You can’t say enough about what Nate has done as a rookie,’’ offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien said. “We do put a lot on his plate and we ask him to know different parts of the game plan. He’s done a good job. He fits right into that group of veterans that we have.’’

Solder said he hasn’t thought much about returning to the Rockies. He wouldn’t admit to being a Broncos fan growing up (“I’m a Patriots fan this week’’) and wouldn’t speculate on how many tickets he’ll need to come up with for family and friends.

“I’m not going to even try to worry too much about that,’’ Solder said. “It’s just about the game for me.’’

Rush job required

The Patriots allowed Washington to rush for 170 yards last week, the best effort of the season for the Redskins, who rank 31st in the league in rushing yards. Denver, this week’s opponent, is first, averaging 156.2 yards per game.

The Patriots, last in the NFL against the pass, are 13th at stopping the run.

“I’m sure if we don’t do a better job on them, we’ll have problems with it again this week,’’ Belichick said. “We just have to do a better job. Have to coach it better, have to play it better, defend it instead of just watching and react. We have to do better than we did. I’m sure we’ll see it again.’’

Michael Whitmer can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GlobeWhitmer.

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