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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Cam Newton provides update after openly wondering how he'd 'mesh' with Bill Belichick

Cam Newton provides update after openly wondering how he'd 'mesh' with Bill Belichick

How well will Cam Newton and Bill Belichick work together, we've wonderedNewton asked himself the same question when he found out that the Patriots were interested in signing him earlier this offseason. 

He shared his thought process on YouTube during a roundtable discussion with Victor Cruz, Odell Beckham and Todd Gurley: "I said, 'Hold on. How, how is me and Belichick gonna mesh?' You know what I'm saying?"

Well . . . plenty of time has elapsed since then. Newton and his new Patriots teammates have been at Gillette Stadium this week going through what Belichick has compared to the NFL's typical "Phase 1," which usually takes place in the spring and consists of meetings as well as strength and conditioning workouts.

So how has it gone? How have Newton and his new head coach meshed?

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"Listen, listen," Newton said during a WebEx conference call with reporters Friday. "There's a lot of things that I say that there's a perception, but at the end of the day, it's football. I've loved it ever since I've been here. 

"I've been here, going on a week, now and you hear rumors about certain things, but once you finally get settled in on things like that, none of that really matters. It's just all about finding a way to prove your worth on the team."

Belichick has coached all types of personalities, and had success with all types, during his Patriots tenure. Tom Brady was different than Rob Gronkowski, who was different than Randy Moss, who was different than Corey Dillon, who was different than Richard Seymour, who was different than Willie McGinest, who was different than Tedy Bruschi, who was different than Matt Light. 

Newton is a unique personality with a unique skill set who may require a unique approach from the Patriots coaching staff when it comes to drawing out his best. And there may be some bumps in the road as the team finds the right path to maximizing Newton's stay in Foxboro. But for now, according to Newton, everything is going swimmingly. 

It helps that before Newton even set foot inside the team's facilities, they'd established a track record that has him ready to buy into Belichick's way of doing things. 

"I'm still constantly -- I don't want to say in disbelief, but it's just a surreal moment," Newton said. "Nobody really knows how excited I am just to be a part of this organization in (more) ways than one.

"Following up such a powerful dynasty that has so much prestige and lineage of success -- a lot of people would hide from the notion to do certain things, but for me, I think this opportunity is something that I wake up pinching myself each and every day."

Patriots' Cam Newton says there's nothing to worry about with his health: 'I feel amazing'

Patriots' Cam Newton says there's nothing to worry about with his health: 'I feel amazing'

Jarrett Stidham may feel like he has a chance to be the starting quarterback in New England. Bill Belichick may be looking forward to having an open competition at that position. But if Cam Newton really feels the way he says he does, the decision could be closer to final than anyone is willing to admit at the moment.

Asked if he'd be restricted at all by his surgically-repaired right shoulder, Newton replied in no uncertain terms. 

"At this part point in time, sir," he said, "I'm a full go."

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Newton needed to go under the knife in both 2017 and 2019 to fix up his shoulder. The most recent procedure came in January of last year, after a midseason hit to his right side in 2018 mangled the upper portion of his arm, impacted his delivery, and waylaid his performance in a season when through eight games he was near the top of the league in a number of statistical passing categories.

It was a foot injury in the summer of last year that limited him to just two games played in the regular season. That led to surgery in December. 

But almost a year removed from the foot issue, and 18 months removed from his most recent shoulder procedure, Newton told reporters on Friday that he has made his way to New England in very good health. After fighting through injury for each of the last two years, he may be closer to the Newton that beat up on the Patriots back in 2017 than anyone realizes.

"Just right now, for me, this season's not here yet so I do still have time," Newton said. "Working with the training staff here as well as having all the outlets at your disposal to get better and to be as confident come opening day, or when the team may need you, I think that's the most important thing. 

"As far as how I feel right now, I feel amazing. I feel great. Not any different than any other person in that locker room right now so I'm extremely optimistic about that. Through it all, it's just putting yourself in position to be in the best shape and having your body in the best possible situation when you actually need it."

Though he used words like "amazing" and "great" to describe his health, it sounded like Newton wanted to hedge a bit. Perhaps even he knows there's a lot that can happen between now and the start of the regular season when it comes to his well-being. After all, last time he got hurt badly was on the Gillette Stadium turf, trying to avoid a hit early in a meaningless preseason game. 

But for now he's healthy. And he's motivated. Some of that is inherent. He didn't necessarily need to be released by the team that drafted him, he didn't need to linger on the free-agent market for months to experience the sensation propelling him forward in this new chapter of his career.

"I don't have to prove nothing," he said. "Especially not to nobody. I have to prove to myself. That's a daily challenge. I don't think nobody's expectations will ever surpass my expectations for myself. I'm just looking forward to the challenge. 

"Knowing, picking up this whole system, not only the philosophical way of the offense but also how things are ran. This is a new team. I've only been geared by one particular team and one particular city. Now moving to a whole nother residence has kind of put the onus on trying to adapt. That has been the rather interesting part."

Still, there is a part of Newton -- a part that he's not afraid to show on social media -- that wants to let people know he's ticked. 

The Panthers get some, though he said he wishes them "nothing but the best," because he's been uprooted. The rest of the league gets some because it allowed players like Marcus Mariota and Andy Dalton to sign before him (and for more money). But he's using that as "fuel," he explained.

"Look, I wake up mad," he said. "Know what I'm saying? The fact that I'm not able to see my kids on a regular basis, that's what makes me mad. At the end of the day, for me, I'm not gonna dwell on the past. I'm a self-motivator. Even though the past is the past, I'm not gonna keep looking back."

That approach usually plays for Belichick and the Patriots. If it's the one Newton will carry with him to his new team, and if he's healthy, then odds are he'll be playing too.