FOXBORO -- For nearly two decades, the Patriots have never worried about their left tackle. Matt Light took over the job as a 2nd round rookie in 2001 then retired prior to the start of the 2012 season with a ready-made replacement, former first round pick Nate Solder. Solder, waiting in the wings.
Both players were fundamentally sound, athletic tackles who weren’t consistently considered amongst the league best - Light made 3 Pro Bowls, Solder none - but were always in and around the top 10 at their position. But with Solder taking the oodles of cash offered to him by the New York Giants, offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia has some work to do.
The top two candidates for the position - and to this point, the only candidates identified by Scarnecchia himself - are San Franciscan 49er castoff Trent Brown and this year’s first 1st round pick, Isaiah Wynn out of the University of Georgia. Here’s the thing: Brown has always been a right tackle in the pros while Wynn excelled at the position last year for a loaded Bulldogs team but lacks the prototypical size (6’2”, 310 lbs) for the position. This spring, Scarnecchia scoffed at the notion that Wynn couldn’t handle it.
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“He’s a really good player in the best conference in America at his position,” Scarnecchia said back in mid-May. “He’s smart. He’s as tough as they come. He played the whole year with a bad shoulder. He’s got great traits. Look, we look for great traits — smart, tough and athletic enough to play the position and he’s got all three. We’ll see if that translates to this level.”
On day one of camp, Brown, who like Wynn is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, got the nod with the Tom Brady-led offense, playing alongside Joe Thuney, center David Andrews, right guard Shaq Mason and right tackle Marcus Cannon.
Wynn got his reps with the next unit after spending a decent amount of time this spring lined up inside Brown as the left guard. With the team practices in shells, it would be irresponsible to grade how each player performed. That time will come soon, when full pads are donned. And when it does, we'll be watching closely. After all, protecting Tom Brady's blindside is a pretty big deal...