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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Patriots Talk Podcast: Youth - that means draft success - will have to fuel Pats' reboot

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Patriots Talk Podcast: Youth - that means draft success - will have to fuel Pats' reboot

It's simple, really. If the Patriots are going to avoid staying home again after the Wild Card Round of the playoffs next season and seasons to come, they've got to get younger.

And to get younger, they've got to be more successful in the draft.

In the latest edition of Tom Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast, Curran and Phil Perry focus on the last time New England was sent home this early in the playoffs a decade ago and if there can be lessons learned from that roster reboot in 2010. 

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The biggest issue confronting the Pats this time around is their age, which averages 31.6 years old (a 42-year-old quarterback skews that a little, of course). By comparison, the Super Bowl 54 opponents, the Kansas City Chiefs (26.8) and the San Francisco 49ers (26.6) are considerably younger.

Click here to listen and subscribe to Tom Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast: 

The age factor is why, as Perry pointed out, "the pressure is on for them to hit not only in this 2020 draft, where they do have 12 picks, they have no second-round pick, but 12 shots at the dartboard. Last year, they had 10 [picks] and nine guys are still with the team.

"It's clear they have told themselves, 'We need to get younger. We need to start hitting here if we want to sustain this success.' The draft is the lifeblood of any team."

The 2018 team and its victory in the Super Bowl over the Rams last February worked to hide some of those flaws from recent low-yield draft classes.

"They had a great quarterback when they needed him. They had a Hall of Fame quarterback when they needed him. The defense looked tremendous we know how that story played out," Perry said. 

What kind of draft yield are we talking about to fuel the next generation of Patriots' success?

Curran goes on to rattle off the names from 2008-2012 drafts (Mayo, Slater, Edelman, Vollmer, Butler, Chung, Gronkowski, McCourty) that fueled the second half of the Pats dynasty.

"I have upwards of 30 names from 2008 to 2012 who were contributing players to the Patriots. I'm not even talking a little contributing, but massive contributing...," Curran said.  

There's also a discussion of how the uncertainty surrounding Tom Brady will impact the 2020 draft strategy. Listen and subscribe to Tom Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast on the NBC Sports Boston podcast network.


That 617 Life Podcast: Patriots' ties to a Pats-less Super Bowl

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That 617 Life Podcast: Patriots' ties to a Pats-less Super Bowl

The Patriots may have been missing from the NFL's Championship Sunday, but that didn't stop them from being mentioned and having their former personnel play prominent roles in the AFC and NFC Championship Games.

Whether it was former Pats linebacker Mike Vrabel coaching the Tennessee Titans against the Kansas City Chiefs or former New England quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo helping the San Francisco 49ers beat the Green Bay Packers to reach Super Bowl 54, the Patriots continue to be a talked-about team. 

On the latest edition of the "That 617 Life" podcast, Leroy Irvin, Shanda Foster and Cerrone Battle discussed how the Pats still loomed over the games on Sunday.

"You can not say anything bad about the Patriots because we are always constantly producing talent," Foster said. "I think this is the perfect testament to Bill Belichick."

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Battle said it speaks to the dominance of the Patriots the past two decades that connections to their former players and staff are now all over the league.

"That's what happens when you win," Battle said. "When you win, everybody wants a piece. They want your waterboy. Look at the new head coach of the Giants [Joe Judge, the former Patriots special teams and receivers coach]?... When you're good for 20 years eventually you're going to have your roots all over the league. After years and years of success, I'm not shocked by it."

Irvin and Foster said instead of lamenting a rare NFL Final Four without New England, Pats fans should be grateful.

"I wish Patriot Nation would grow up," Irvin said. "By that I mean I'm tired of seeing on social media people just crying and complaining, 'Oh it's boring without the Patriots.' We've had almost two decades of excellence. We're not there. Get over it."

Said Foster, "I was grateful more than anything. Filled with gratitude. We may never see a run like this again."

In his "Hot Takes and Cold Cuts" segment, Battle says those crowning the Super Bowl 54 opponents as the next dynasties might want to pump the brakes a little. 

"First thing I heard [after the games] is, 'Kansas City they're gonna be around for years and San Francisco they're gonna be around for a long time. They're gonna be contenders forever,' " Battle said. "That was the story all day. 'What is anybody gonna do about these teams next year?' What are they gonna do next year? Not even worry about them. Why? Because this is the Not For Long League. The NFL. Every year, the teams that were hot the year before are never guaranteed to be hot the year after that. Unless you're the Patriots."

The crew also gives their reactions to the new Aaron Hernandez Netflix documentary. It's all in this week's "That 617 Life" podcast on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast network. Click here to listen and subscribe.