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The biggest stories surrounding Patriots minicamp is how the coaching staff duties will be worked out and how much Mac Jones will progress in his second season. Both are critically important for the future of the franchise. However, one other major story surrounding the team is how Jones will be protected this year. With that in mind, Trent Brown moving to left tackle for the first two practices stood out.
New England allowed Ted Karras to leave in free agency and traded Shaq Mason before using a first round pick to draft Cole Strange. Returning are Brown, David Andrews, Michael Onwenu and Isaiah Wynn. Andrews is the starting center and Onwenu will likely work at right guard with Strange at left guard. Onwenu was an elite right tackle in 2020 before having struggles at left guard in 2021, but he played right guard in college and should be able to return closer to his 2020 form on the right side at guard. The biggest change is switching Wynn and Brown. In Week 1 last year, Wynn was the starting left tackle and Brown the starting right tackle. It stayed that way whenever Brown was healthy.
Both were solid tackles last year, but when healthy Brown was slightly better. He allowed one sack in 489 snaps while Wynn allowed six in 915 snaps. Both of those numbers are according to Pro Football Focus. Wynn is more athletic, but Brown is more powerful and a better run blocker. Brown is also six inches taller and 70 pounds heavier than Wynn.
A switch in the two tackles could be a boon for the Patriots. Brown has only played a full season twice in his career, 2016 with the 49ers and 2018 with the Patriots. During the 2018 season, Brown played left tackle in every game and played at a high level, especially down the stretch and in the postseason. He allowed three sacks in 1090 snaps and was a monster in the run game after the Patriots adjusted their approach to favor the run late in the season. His play was a significant factor in the Patriots winning the Super Bowl. Re-inserting him at left tackle would provide protection for Mac Jones as well as help for a rookie starter at left guard in Strange.
Wynn at right tackle could also increase his production; without worrying about protecting Jones’ blindside, he would be able to use his athleticism more and him and Onwenu would be a very athletic run-blocking duo. There have been some signals the Patriots will run more zone run plays than they have in the past, which would require more athletic offensive linemen.
An offensive line group of Brown-Strange-Andrews-Onwenu-Wynn has potential to be one of the best in the NFL. However, Brown and Wynn’s health are always a concern. If they can stay healthy and the unit can have continuity, Mac Jones’ production will increase and the Patriots running game will be a force.