Isaiah Wynn is already entering his third year in the NFL, but he has comparatively little on-field experience to show for it: Wynn has appeared in just nine of a possible 36 games since the New England Patriots selected him with the 23rd overall pick in the 2018 draft, with injuries forcing him to miss considerable portions of his first two seasons in the league.
His rookie campaign came to an end just nine snaps into his preseason debut: pass-blocking against future teammate Michael Bennett, the offensive tackle was pushed back and came up limping after the play. Wynn had to leave the field and was later diagnosed with a torn Achilles tendon. Instead of earning the backup/swing tackle role in 2018, the Georgia product had to spend his entire first season as a pro rehabbing from the injury.
Wynn returned to the field during the following training camp and ended up filling the vacant left tackle position that was previously occupied by free agency departee Trent Brown. Wynn’s stint as the Patriots’ blindside protector lasted only five quarters, though: during New England’s Week 2 game in Miami, he hurt his toe and subsequently had to be placed on temporary injured reserve. He was able to return to the field later in the season, however, and eventually started the final seven games of the season.
“Last year for me really was my really rookie year, so I had some occasional rookie ups and downs, especially coming back the last [seven] games,” Wynn recently told Paul Periollo of Patriots.com about his 2019 season. “I still have a lot of room to improve on. I’m looking forward to getting back out there and being out there regularly.”
Being on the field has proven to be an issue for Wynn over the last two years, despite a college career that saw him miss just one of 41 games during his three seasons a starter along the Bulldogs’ offensive line. Entering 2020, however, he is back at full strength again and in a position to build on what was at times an encouraging first year as the Patriots’ starting left tackle.
“This offseason was my first official offseason because I’m able to just go out and work out and not rehab. It’s been different,” Wynn said about his preparations for the upcoming season. “It’s great being able to still be involved with everything that’s going on with our team with the meetings and all that, but that aspect of not having that camaraderie of being in the same facility together is missed. Other than that it’s been great.
“We’re missing that key piece,” he continued when speaking about the adapted character of this year’s offseason. “It’s always 50/50 classroom and execution out on the field. Offensive line play is not just about you. It’s also about relying on other people to help you do your job and helping them do theirs. There’s a comfort that comes with working together on the field, not just watching film and learning in the classroom. But we definitely try to take advantage of the time we have together.”
The Coronavirus pandemic has of course forced teams to adapt their workouts. Wynn was able to stay in touch with his teammates and follow a daily routine of virtual workouts and online meetings, but will have to wait to build on the chemistry he has with his fellow offensive linemen. The Patriots will count on this process going smoothly after a year which saw a lot of personnel turnover along the line: Wynn missed time due to his toe, while center David Andrews had to sit out the entire season due to blood clots in his lungs.
Both men are now healthy again, which is a positive development for a New England offense that will have to adapt to a new quarterback being in the starting lineup. Whether it is second-year man Jarrett Stidham or veteran Brian Hoyer, the blockers up front will play a pivotal role in helping them adjust to the new situation and to ensure the transition from future Hall of Famer Tom Brady works smoothly.
Wynn is an integral part of this group, and this time hopefully for a full season.