The New England Patriots’ Week 11 loss against the Houston Texans was a costly one. Not only did it drop the team to 4-6 on the season and further hurt its already slim playoff hopes, it also left the team without two of its most valuable contributors on the offensive side of the ball: running back Rex Burkhead and left tackle Isaiah Wynn both suffered knee injuries in the second half of New England’s 27-20 loss.
While Burkhead’s injury cost him the rest of the season — he suffered a torn ACL and later had to undergo surgery — there was some initial optimism that Wynn would be able to return. Nonetheless, the Patriots decided to send him to injured reserve ahead of their Week 12 game against the Arizona Cardinals. With two more games in the rear-view mirror now, however, Wynn is eligible to return to practice and the active roster again.
Getting the former first-round draft pick back would be a major boost to an offense that has struggled at various times this year, even when he was on the field. Still, Wynn has been one of the most consistent players this season on an otherwise inconsistent unit. His knee injury was therefore naturally a blow to the Patriots’ attack as a whole.
With him out, New England had to turn to short-time starting right tackle and recent number three, Jermaine Eluemunor. The 25-year-old did play some solid football at times, but was a) in a rotation with sixth-round rookie Justin Herron over each of the last three games, and b) struggled mightily on Thursday night versus the Los Angeles Rams’ talented front. Eluemunor has been a pleasant surprise this season after serving primarily as a guard over the first three years of his career, but he is a clear downgrade from Wynn.
Whether or not the starter is able to rejoin the team for its last three games of the regular season remains to be seen, though. New England will be back on the practice fields on Wednesday before taking on the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
If Wynn indeed returns to practice, it would open a 21-day window for his activation. He either returns to the 53-man roster during that time, or would have to spend the rest of the season — including a possible but unlikely playoff run — on IR. Accordingly, there is a chance that the third-year man might be back on the field for New England come this week’s game against the Dolphins.