The New England Patriots have one of the best offensive lines in the league, but they have a major question at the left tackle position. After losing Trent Brown to the Oakland Raiders, the Patriots are banking on the untested Isaiah Wynn to protect Tom Brady‘s blindside. Wynn was New England’s first-round pick in 2018 but tore his Achilles early in the 2018 preseason. He has the raw skills to be a franchise tackle but needs to prove that he can return to full health and handle NFL-caliber competition.
New England Patriots Training Camp Battles: Isaiah Wynn vs Everybody
Following the departure of Nate Solder, the Patriots drafted Wynn as their left tackle of the future. However, Wynn ruptured his Achilles before his rookie season even got off the ground. His injury came so early in the season that there’s basically no NFL tape on which to judge his performance. Despite the lack of NFL tape, we can still evaluate what he did in college.
Wynn was a brick wall during his final year with Georgia. Serving as the primary left tackle, Wynn surrendered just five pressures despite facing off against some of the best pass rushers in college football. He’s quick on his feet and has the body control, footwork, and anchor to serve as an NFL-caliber tackle. Additionally, he has experience at guard and can play multiple positions. Nobody loves versatility more than Bill Belichick, so Wynn will stick in Foxboro in some capacity or another.
Wynn has a good shot to be New England’s left tackle of the future, but there are a few obstacles standing in his way. For one, he needs to prove that he’s fully recovered from his Achilles injury. Achilles injuries are notoriously difficult to rehab, and some players need more than a year to find their old form. Wynn ruptured his Achilles in early August, so we’re closing in on one year since the injury. The only way to gauge his rehab progress is by seeing him on the field, so this issue will be resolved one way or another in time.
Even if Wynn fully recovers, he might not be able to stick at tackle. At 6’-2¾”, Wynn is notably shorter than the average NFL tackle. He tested in the ninth percentile for height and had the smallest hands among tackles at the NFL Combine. That said, his wingspan is larger than fellow 2018 first-round pick Mike McGlinchey and his 313-pound frame tested in the 51st percentile. The Patriots have had success with smaller tackles like Matt Light, and Bill Belichick and Dante Scarnecchia both believe he can stick at tackle. Seeing as they’re significantly smarter than any of us, there’s no reason to worry about Wynn’s height.
The Patriots don’t have a great option if Wynn isn’t up for the task. As of this posting, the only other tackles of note on the roster are Marcus Cannon, Yodny Cajuste, and Cole Croston. Cannon is locked in at the right tackle position, leaving Cajuste and Croston battling for the top backup position.
It’s hard to imagine a world where Cajuste doesn’t win the backup job. While injuries prevented him from participating in minicamp, the third-round rookie should be back on the field during training camp. Cajuste is great on his feet and has sound fundamentals as both a run blocker and pass protector. Quite frankly, the only reason he was available in the third round is due to his injury history. Cajuste suffered serious knee injuries as a freshman and sophomore and had quad surgery prior to the NFL Draft. There’s no such thing as a player without injury risk, but Cajuste carries more risk than most. Still, he’s healthy now and should be the next man up if Wynn can’t win the job.
Should Cajuste and Wynn both fall short of expectations, don’t expect Cole Croston to see the field. Croston was the only tackle healthy for minicamp, yet New England opted to play Joe Thuney at left tackle. Thuney has developed into one of the NFL’s better guards but has experience playing tackle in college. This speaks volumes about their confidence in the journeyman swing tackle. It’s hard to imagine New England actually entering Week One with Thuney at left tackle, so they could also sign a guy like Donald Penn to a cheap one-year deal as a worst-case scenario.