How Isaiah Wynn proved he can help unlock Patriots' potential

How Isaiah Wynn proved he can help unlock Patriots' potential

FOXBORO — Tom Brady's frustration level with the Patriots offense over the course of the season has been understandable. He knows they're capable of doing more than getting into the teens on the scoreboard, as they've done each of the last two weeks.

"I'd like to see us reach our potential as an offense," Brady told Westwood One's Jim Gray ahead of last weekend's game with the Cowboys. "I don't think we've got there yet."

They may be getting closer, though, now that their starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn is back in the fold — even after scoring just 13 over the weekend. 

It was far from a perfect return for Wynn after he sat out eight weeks on injured reserve. He allowed a strip sack, two hits and two quarterback hurries. But his presence on the left side, against a talented Cowboys pass rush that one rival NFC evaluator described to me as "a problem," seemed to settle things down for the Patriots passing game.

If Wynn can help provide Brady with a little more time, there's no question the Patriots offense will start to approach that ceiling Brady is so desperate to reach on a more regular basis.

Consider these numbers, courtesy of Pro Football Focus, illustrating just how critical it is for Brady to get the time he needs in the pocket:

  • Brady under pressure: 59.1 accuracy percentage (takes into account drops, throwaways, passes batted at the line), 48.3 rating
  • Brady kept clean: 78.8 accuracy percentage, 103.4 rating

Brady's rating under pressure is one of the worst in football (27th). His rating when kept clean, meanwhile, puts him just ahead of the middle of the pack (13th). His protection is key. And with Wynn back on Sunday, despite the pressures allowed by the second-year player out of Georgia, Brady's protection seemed to experience a sudden boost.

After averaging 2.51 seconds to throw through the first 10 games of the season, Brady had 2.71 seconds to throw against Dallas, per PFF. Though that may seem like a small uptick, Brady's results down the field had him looking like a different quarterback than the one who showed up in Philadelphia the week prior.

With little time to throw and little in the way of down-the-field threats, Brady was off the mark on a variety of passes against the Eagles. On those plays, he was typically either pressured, put on the move by design (often to avoid pressure off the left side), or hurried when he didn't necessarily have to be. That last category of throw — where he simply looks uncomfortable — seemed to suddenly go away Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

Any coincidence it was because he was more confident in the play of his left tackle? Brady was pining for Wynn back in October.

"We have one [player] that we’re hoping can return from injury, Isaiah Wynn, who was our left tackle to start the year," Brady told Gray at the time. "He’s working hard and progressing, and any time you get players back, it not only improves the depth of the team, but you get some youthful exuberance, as well.

'"So any time you get players back from injury, I think it’s a benefit to the team ... We’re certainly hoping Isaiah can come back at some point.”

With Wynn back, Brady went from barely trying passes down the field against the Eagles, to thriving with his feet set on deep shots.

This 23-yard completion to a diving Julian Edelman late in the fourth quarter might've been one of his best throws of the season. Poor throwing conditions, into the wind (notice the flags atop the field goal uprights), and he drops it on a dime to his favorite target.

Wynn checks in here with a nice one-on-one rep against Michael Bennett. It looks initially like he might set a little too wide off the snap, especially with Sony Michel trying to pitch in with a chip, but he recovers and shuffles to cut off Bennett's rush before he can bother Brady.

From snap to throw, Brady has over three seconds. 

Earlier in the game, Wynn and left guard Joe Thuney handle a two-man game to give Brady all the time he needs to find Edelman deep down the left side of the field. Notice Brady's demeanor in the pocket. Even with Maliek Collins getting close, his footwork makes it look as though he's making a warmup toss in training camp.

From snap to throw, I clocked Brady as having 2.8 seconds.

This next throw might've been Brady's best pocket of the night. It was a third-and-eight play during a two-minute drill. Obvious passing situation. The Cowboys were able to pin their ears back and get up the field as their scheme encourages them to do almost across situations. Yet Brady may as well be on the beach here considering how easily he makes this throw to Jakobi Meyers for 23 yards. 

Wynn gets some help on Robert Quinn here from James White, and Brady has more than enough time to go execute his mechanics. From snap to throw, he had over 3.5 seconds. That's a quarterback's dream.

Brady, as you'll see here, and as you've seen over the course of the last several seasons, still has the ability to buy some time for himself when he needs to. It just can't be a jailbreak up front. 

On this snap, Wynn does all he can with Quinn's speed rush that starts to the outside and then cuts in. Brady senses the space outside, dips around both players as Wynn washes Quinn down the line, turns his shoulders and fires a strike to Edelman 20 yards down the field, on a line. 

From snap to throw, thanks in part to his own quickness and instincts, Brady had about 3.5 seconds to throw yet again. 

The Patriots offense wasn't loaded with talent against Dallas. They were without Mohamed Sanu and Phillip Dorsett — two of their top four receivers. But when Brady has time, he's still special. When he has time, even his reserve receivers can uncover for big gains down the field. 

Brady clearly still believes this offense has more potential than it has shown. He clearly still believes he's capable of drawing it out. He just needs a little bit of time. Despite a few hiccups in his first game back, having Wynn back looks like it will go a long way in providing Brady the extra split seconds he needs.


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Ex-Patriots star Rob Gronkowski reveals where he wanted to go in 2010 NFL Draft

Ex-Patriots star Rob Gronkowski reveals where he wanted to go in 2010 NFL Draft

Rob Gronkowski envisioned beginning his NFL career in Arizona.

Gronkowski played two seasons at the University of Arizona and was one of the best tight end prospects entering the 2010 NFL Draft. His initial preference was to make the 2-hour trip from Tuscon to Glendale and play for the Arizona Cardinals. The Kurt Warner era in Arizona had just ended and the team needed a tight end. On paper, the Cardinals and Gronkowski were a perfect match.

“I loved being in the state of Arizona … I was praying that they would take me because I wanted to go there,” Gronkowski said Tuesday on Arizona radio station 98.7 FM's "Doug & Wolf" show. “I felt like they needed a tight end and they brought me in for a little visit.”

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The visit didn't go very well.

“I took a visit there and everything, I could tell they had no interest in me,” Gronkowski said. “I could tell, the people that brought me in, they were just bringing me in to bring me in.”

Concerns over Gronkowski's back played a part in him dropping to the second round, where the Patriots took a chance on him with the 42nd overall pick. Gronkowski played nine years for the Patriots and became arguably the greatest tight end in pro football history.

He also played a part in three Super Bowl-winning Patriots teams, including a Super Bowl LIII triumph over the Los Angeles Rams in February of 2019 that turned out to be his last NFL game. He retired in March of last year.

The Cardinals are still searching for an elite tight end 10 years later. The position has been an area of weakness for Arizona throughout the last decade. According to USA TODAY, Gronkowski's 80 career receiving touchdowns are 54 more than every Cardinals tight end combined (26 TDs) from 2010 through 2018. 

The Cardinals did take a tight end in the 2010 draft with the selection of Jim Dray in the seventh round. He played in 56 games (and tallied just two receiving touchdowns) for the Cardinals over a seven-year career that also included time with three other teams.

Gronkowski would've been great for the Cardinals, and he was right in their backyard.

Perry: Vrabel and others tiptoe around Brady buzz at combine

NFL Rumors: Could Patriots videotaping investigation punishment come soon?

NFL Rumors: Could Patriots videotaping investigation punishment come soon?

Stop us if you've heard this before: An investigation into a Boston-area sports team has dragged on longer than expected.

The NFL launched its investigation into the Patriots back in December after the Bengals caught a New England staffer videotaping their sideline from Cincinnati's press box during a Week 14 game.

The Patriots issued a statement addressing the incident and footage of their film went public, but the league still hasn't concluded its investigation more than two months later.

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A verdict could be coming soon, however, as The Boston Globe's Ben Volin reports the NFL is "getting closer to wrapping up" its investigation.

From Volin:

Last week, NFL Security completed what was believed to be the final interview with a Patriots employee. Now the security officials must write up their report, then hand it up the chain of command, where it will eventually land on the desk of commissioner Roger Goodell, who will approve of a final course of action.

There's still no precise timetable for that course of action, per Volin.

Head coach Bill Belichick has maintained that his football staff had no connection whatsoever to the illegal videotaping, but New England still could face punishment in the form of a fine and/or loss of a mid-round draft pick.

Will that punishment come before Major League Baseball concludes its never-ending investigation into the 2018 Boston Red Sox? That's anyone's guess.