Editor’s Note 1: As of this writing on Thursday night, Isaiah Wynn was carted off the field with an ankle injury.
Editor’s Note 2: TAKE MY ANKLES ISAIAH, I’VE ALREADY DONE MY ONE ATHLETIC EVENT FOR THE YEAR SO I’M GOOD
Worst-case scenario notwithstanding, aside from an open bar of questions about the defense like “Do you think we’ll remember how to play zone coverage?” and “You guys remember sacks?”, arguably the biggest question the Patriots had on offense this summer was how they were going to replace eight-year left tackle Nate Solder.
Yes, that was the biggest question on offense. Miss me with that THIS WIDE RECEIVAH COAH IS A BUNCHA FRIGGIN JABRONIS routine. Some of the best receivers in New England Patriots history are former jabronis. That’s what the Patriots do, that’s their thing.
And unlike fellow O-lineman Joe Thuney, who played left tackle in college but was drafted by New England specifically to play guard, when the Patriots threw everyone for a loop at pick 23 and took Isaiah (you thought it’d be a front-seven guy, admit it), there weren’t any such disclaimers. Sure, he’s a couple inches shorter than your typical left tackle, and almost half a sub sandwich shorter than his primary competition for left tackle Trent Brown, but offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia’s already said definitively that Wynn and Brown will get reps at left tackle.
And as Dante is physically incapable of BS’ing us, that’s exactly what’s happened in camp - Wynn’s been all over the place, including blindside protector.
A few thoughts on offense from Sunday’s practice: 1. Tom Brady’s reported back injury not an issue as he has expanded workload; 2. Isaiah Wynn getting first look at right tackle, at times rotating in w/ top unit; 3. Jeremy Hill as lead RB with Rex Burkhead/Sony Michel not present— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) August 12, 2018
Wynn – He hasn’t missed a practice since the spring, which has given him a chance to begin his development on a positive track. He has mostly been at tackle, where his quick feet and technique show up in one-on-one drills, while occasionally taking some reps at left guard on the backup units when depth becomes an issue. He is already in the top-seven group of offensive linemen, which means he should be active on game day, assuming he hasn’t put himself into the starting mix.
Isaiah Wynn getting reps at RT with Brady after getting some reps there at practice lately. He spent most of camp getting reps as a backup LT behind Trent Brown. He told me this week he's comfortable moving around in diff roles— Meredith Gorman (@MereGorman) August 16, 2018
Observations from practice, Part I:— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) June 6, 2018
*Dante Scarnecchia furious in run-game work, pulling LT Trent Brown and LG Isaiah Wynn for missed assignment. Let’s them have it. Then has them sit.
*WR Kenny Britt, who pulled up Tuesday (hamstring), wasn’t present.
Observations from practice, Part IV:— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) May 31, 2018
* In walkthrough work, Trent Brown was LT & Isaiah Wynn LG. As usual, team will work linemen at multiple spots.
* DE Eric Lee's strong rush at LDE on OT Cole Croston helped create INT.
* Rookie CB Duke Dawson gets work as personal protector
You get the idea.
Put that together with the early word on the street that Trent Brown was kicking ass and taking names all camp long, and starting the first two preseason games at left tackle, it’s gotta make one wonder where Wynn fits into the Patriots’ plans for 2018.
Maybe he doesn’t. Not as a starter, anyway.
First-round picks not starting full-time immediately is borderline blasphemy these days, but that’s exactly what happened in 2011 when the Patriots spent pick #17 on a talented, but raw massive human out of the University of Colorado by the name of Nate Solder. In the 2011 season, Solder’s rookie year, Solder and Light both started double-digit games, and when Matt Light hung ‘em up at the end of a Patriots Hall of Fame career, Nate took over left tackle full-time in 2012.
And even back then, Dante Scarnecchia only grudgingly admitted that Solder was getting better going into his sophomore campaign, slowly but surely. The way Scar tells it, you’d think he’s talking about training Po in Kung Fu Panda and not an up-and-coming much-hyped franchise left tackle.
From the Boston Globe back in the Greg Bedard days:
“There’s no cliff I’m throwing myself off right now. I’m telling you the truth,” he said. “Believe it or not, that glass is half full and filling up. That’s just how I see it. With every position, all I ask is the best. They’re giving it to us, and we’ll improve.”
“I think Nate Solder is a better today than he was all of last year,” Scarnecchia said.
“I think all young tackles struggle on plays and protections in this league, ok?” he said. “Just do a little thinking. Who did Matt Light replace? Bruce Armstrong. Did anybody think that it was going to be (smooth)? OK. Did you think he had any problems with it to start with? Well hell yeah they all (have) problems. It is what it is.”
And also in the “Dante is physically incapable of BS” department, Matt Light apparently wasn’t all that and a bag of chips in his first year either:
Scarnecchia talked about how Light played as a rookie in 2001 on his way to starting the Patriots’ first Super Bowl victory.
“Oh, it was as painful as it could ever be, you know?” Scarnecchia said. “Just like anything, he got better and became a really good player. Quote ‘one that you can’t replace,’ no one can be replaced, but we’ve got some really good candidates. I love Matt. I wish he were here, but he’s not, and I love the guys that are here, and I look forward to them playing for us for a long time to come.”
Also, in digging around for some details on that Matt Light/Nate Solder passing of the torch, I found this gem that has no relevance at all to what we’re talking about, but has to be an all-time freezing cold take from NESN’s Jeff Howe on the Bengals picking some kid by the name of A.J. Green:
Happens to the best of us, it really does.
Wynn’s clearly in the cards to be a long-term starter somewhere on the line - you don’t spend the 23rd overall pick on the football equivalent to that one rockstar on your co-ed softball team that can play anywhere in a pinch - but there’s both a precedent and pretty developmental attitude towards the way the Patriots have worked with Wynn in his first camp and both preseason games. If Trent Brown really is a BAMF waiting to be unleashed at left tackle, it’s just another classic Belichick swap where you probably need to check your wrist after shaking Bill’s hand to make sure your watch is still there. Trent’s contract IS up after this season, though, and even if he ends up parlaying his one year in New England into a Dr. Evil-sized free agent contract from some 6-10 team that’s convinced they’re JUST A PLAYER AWAY, then guess who’s been learning the job and grinding hard all year long?
Wynn. Same goes for if Brown stays and Shaq Mason is the one getting the Brinks truck.
Either way, let’s just head into the weekend hoping our friend Dr. Chao here is wrong about Isaiah’s ankle, cause...ouch, bro.