It’s no secret that the Patriots have a plethora of key free agents that will likely seek greener pastures. Trey Flowers is the big name that comes to mind, along with a majority of the receiving corps. The other large, pun intended, free agent set to cash in is offensive tackle Trent Brown.
The Patriots acquired Brown during the 2018 draft, and only swapped third and fifth round picks with the 49ers to do so. That 5th round pick ended up yielding Ja’Whaun Bentley, which could turn out to be a steal.
At the time, no one thought too much of the Brown trade, other than the Patriots got an enormous human being. With the loss of Nate Solder, Brown looked to be the new left tackle, but there was also the new first round pick to consider.
New England drafted Isaiah Wynn with the 23rd overall pick out of Georgia. The Patriots initially saw him as the potential heir to Brady’s blindside, but then Bill Belichick stole Brown from San Francisco. Wynn isn’t considered a traditional tackle, as he only stands 6’2″, which is a lower height than average. He moved around the entire line at Georgia, but definitely possesses the talent to play the tackle position well.
It looked to be a position battle going into camp, with both Brown and Wynn vying for the starting role. Brown was the more obvious choice, as he had the experience and measurements over Wynn. However, Wynn came out of college highly touted, and Belichick gave him a shot in the preseason. That shot lasted exactly one quarter.
Wynn went down playing right tackle when newly acquired Michael Bennett put too much weight on Wynn’s Achilles. He hobbled off the field and didn’t see it again for the rest of 2018, ending up on Injured Reserve. This was the case for most of New England’s rookie class, but Wynn is all set to go for 2019.
With Brown more than likely leaving unless New England breaks character and signs him to a massive deal, can Wynn fill his predecessor’s humongous shoes?
Assuming Brown does depart, the job is absolutely Wynn’s to lose. There aren’t many solid offensive tackle options on the market or in the draft (in the Pats range), so Wynn looks to be the next man up. Belichick didn’t acquire Brown until day 2, so he drafted Wynn with the starting job in mind.
There is definitely a lot to like about Wynn. He is a great lineman all round, excelling at moving around and creating holes for the running back. He was dominant in the 2018 Rose Bowl, keeping Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm protected the entire night. There shouldn’t be much worry about Wynn’s athleticism. He will do extremely well with open field blocks and leading the charge downfield.
If there is one area of concern however, it would be his ability to stand up to NFL caliber linemen. He will be dealing with players that far exceed his height and weight, which was the knock on Wynn coming out of college. The left tackle is arguably one of the most important positions, and protecting Tom Brady’s blindside is crucial at this point in his career. A 42 year old man doesn’t need to be taking hits from his backside throughout a season.
There is a lot of hope for Wynn, especially on the Patriots staff. He was the top pick for New England a year ago, and needs to live up to that in 2019. To answer the question of, “Can he replace Trent Brown?”, I believe he can. Brown was a solid player in the 2018 season, but did seem lazy at times. He wasn’t the best at keeping guys off Brady’s back, and that’s the area Wynn needs to prove himself at.
At this point, there should be no excuses for the sophomore, as he will have arguably the NFL’s best offensive line coach, the legendary Dante Scarnecchia, guiding him along the way. It will be interesting to see if they capitalize on Wynn’s athleticism in ways they couldn’t with Brown. If all goes according to plan, the Patriots will have their left tackle of the future in Isaiah Wynn.