On the first day of the New England Patriots 2018 minicamp, the offensive line looked much different than it had in 2017.
Gone at left tackle was Nate Solder and in his place was Trent Brown, the former San Francisco 49ers right tackle that the Patriots acquired in the middle of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Supposed franchise left guard Joe Thuney was not present due to a foot injury that requires surgery. He was replaced by 2018 first round pick Isaiah Wynn.
And All Pro right tackle Marcus Cannon was limited and worked out with players going through rehab. In his place was LaAdrian Waddle.
Only center David Andrews and right guard Shaq Mason were in their typical positions.
None of these changes- alone or combined- should be any reason for concern or be taken as a sign of things to come. The Patriots like to fiddle around with various offensive lines during camp in order to find the best combination and to work on the versatility of their players.
The Patriots probably think that a left-side combination of Brown and Wynn is stronger than having Wynn at left tackle and someone like Cole Croston or Luke Bowanko at left guard. If Thuney were available, perhaps we’d see a Wynn-Thuney left side.
The only real takeaways are: 1) Brown is a legitimate option at left tackle; 2) Brown could be ahead of Waddle on the left tackle depth chart; and 3) Wynn’s ability to play both tackle and guard will help him in the long run.
While Wynn’s scouting report paints a player clearly capable of playing guard in the NFL, we shouldn’t assume that Thuney’s spot in the starting lineup is in jeopardy. Thuney took a major stride forward in the second half of the 2017 season and there is definite value in having consistency on the offensive line. Thuney still isn’t a perfect player- he still struggles mightily with the bull rush- but he’s a quality starting guard.
And while Wynn is currently practicing at left guard, perhaps there’s a role for him at right guard if Mason departs in 2019 free agency.
We’ll know more when Thuney and Cannon return to the field and the Patriots offensive line is at full strength. My gut tells me that the week 1 starting lineup will be Brown, Thuney, Andrews, Mason, and Cannon, with Wynn as the supersub. What do you think?