Isaiah Wynn’s rookie season ended before it even got started. The University of Georgia product, drafted 23rd overall in the first round by the Patriots, tore his left Achilles in his preseason debut and was not heard from for the rest of the 2018 season. While the acquisition of Trent Brown from the San Francisco 49ers last year helped soften the blow of Wynn’s injury, there is no such comfort cushion this year.
Brown left New England after only . one year to sign a massive four-year, $66 million contract with the Oakland Raiders. That leaves Wynn, former practice squad player Dan Skipper, third-round pick Yodny Cajuste (who is still on the non-football injury list), and left guard Joe Thuney as the top candidates to replace Brown this year.
With Thuney entrenched as left guard, and Cajuste coming off surgery on his quad, New England will likely look to Wynn to justify his first round selection and take over as the left tackle for the team. However, Wynn’s recovery from his Achilles injury complicates matters, and the fact that he still hasn’t participated in full during training camp raises questions about if Wynn will have the proper amount of time in training camp to settle in as Tom Brady’s blindside protector.
With the New England defense looking like it will be the greatest strength for the team this season, at least on paper, perhaps the biggest question mark on this team will be who starts at left tackle. If Wynn isn’t ready to go by Week 1, that would leave Skipper, Cajuste or Thuney as the backup options. Thuney has been at left tackle in spring and early during training camp, but it’s hard to see him being the preferred option at left tackle moving forward, unless absolutely necessary. You already have a question mark at left tackle, why create another question mark at another position on the offensive line too?
Dante Scarnecchia seems unwavering in his confidence in Wynn. During OTAs, Scarnecchia had this to say about his second-year tackle: “I went back over all of training camp and looked at everything, and this guy is a really good football player. We just have to get him out there. I’ll just leave it at that.”
Despite the vote of confidence from his position coach, it does appear that the Patriots have thrown some level of caution to the wind, by signing veteran tackle Jared Veldheer to a one-year deal, only to see him change course and decide to retire shortly after joining the team. With so few free agent options left at that position, the Patriots may just have to stick with what they have and hope it works.
If Wynn can come back fully healthy, it’s not hard to see why Scarnecchia is still excited to see his young charge get out on the field. While undersized for the tackle position, Wynn is a physical, downhill run blocker who plays through the whistle. In pass protection, he displays sound technique and active hands. He is very agile and excels at pulling in the run game, which is something that all Patriots tackles must be adept at.
It’s hard to find a glaring issue in Wynn’s game, but if you want to find a negative about his game, you would highlight his physical measurements. Wynn lacks both height and length, and some draft experts predicted that Wynn would have to play guard in the NFL due to his short arms (33 1/8 in.), but it’s clear that to this point, the Patriots do not share that viewpoint. Wynn has the strong anchor to help him against longer edge rushers, and the powerful and well-placed punch to make up for his lack of reach. His greatest challenge will likely be shedding blocks versus longer defenders.
If the Achilles is healed, Wynn should have no problem seizing the starting left tackle position. If he has trouble getting on to the field though, who steps up in his absence will be the top story line of training camp this summer, and the Patriots may find themselves scrambling to find a capable replacement to Trent Brown from last year.