The New England Patriots currently have 89 players on their active roster. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on September 1 and ultimately make the team. Over the course of the offseason, we take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots recapture the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Today, the series continues with one of New England’s projected starters along the offensive line.
Name: Trent Brown
Position: Offensive tackle
Jersey number: 77
Opening day age: 25
Size: 6’8, 380 lbs.
2017 review: After earning the San Francisco 49ers’ starting right tackle job in 2016, Brown returned in the same role in 2017. And like he did one year earlier, the former seventh-round draft pick again proved to be a productive player that started every game – at the least the ones for which he was healthy: Brown appeared in 10 games before being placed on season-ending injured reserve in mid-December because of a shoulder injury.
The Florida product, who had already missed one game earlier during the regular season because of a concussion he suffered in week seven, originally hurt his shoulder in practice coming off San Francisco’s week 11 bye. He sat out one game because of the issue, but was back in the lineup the following week and went wire-to-wire. However, his injury worsened and he was ultimately shut down for good.
All in all, though, 2017 was still a good season for Brown. According to analytics website Pro Football Focus, he produced the best year of his still young career and ranked 19th among 81 qualifying offensive tackles through 13 weeks. A big reason for that was his excellence as a pass protector: the behemoth lineman surrendered only one sack, five quarterback hits, and nine hurries when on the field.
Despite being a successful right tackle over the 2016 and 2017 seasons, however, Brown was not guaranteed a starting spot heading into 2018. After all, the 49ers opted to invest the ninth overall draft selection in Notre Dame product Mike McGlinchey – a move that made Brown expendable and put him on the trade market.
2018 preview: One day after San Francisco drafted McGlinchey, the team sent Brown and a fifth-round pick to the Patriots for a third-round selection. Acquiring Brown, who is currently on the final year of his rookie contract, gave New England another player to compete for a left tackle job that had been vacated by long-time starter Nate Solder leaving the team via free agency. It did not take long for Brown to fill Solder’s old role.
While he was still limited during OTAs, Brown settled into the starting left tackle spot during minicamp. Ever since then, he protected Tom Brady’s blindside and proved to be a dominant force at times: the 25-year old not only brings impressive size to the table, he also displayed quick feet and nimble moving skills during practice. Consequently, he is expected to be New England’s day one starter at left tackle.
As such, Brown will rarely leave the field this year. Solder, for comparison, was on the field for 97.9% of the Patriots’ offensive snaps last season and – barring any injury – Brown will see similar playing time. If he will also be able to replace Solder’s productivity remains to be seen, but the early signs have certainly been encouraging.