FOXBORO — There was Isaiah Wynn, on the fields behind Gillette Stadium, washing down a NASA-developed blend of electrolytes with a few swigs from a water bottle. No surprise he was focused on his hydration. It had been a busy day for him.
Prior to downing some of The Right Stuff — a sugar-free electrolyte mix — Wynn saw his first fully-padded, full-contact reps of Patriots training camp. The second-year player lost his entire rookie season to a torn Achilles suffered last August but checked a significant marker in his journey back to game action by participating in full-speed one-on-one, two-on-two and 11-on-11 periods Monday.
“Of course I’m excited,” Wynn said after practice, “just being out here and getting to do a little bit more.”
Throughout training camp, including last week’s practices against the Lions, Wynn would be on the field and in full pads . . . but he’d be a spectator when offensive and defensive players began to bang into each other. The closest Wynn got to full contact was just before the Patriots left for Michigan when he saw some team reps in shells (smaller shoulder pads) and shorts.
It had been Dan Skipper who saw all of the full-contact, first-team practice reps at left tackle prior to Monday. But with Wynn getting the thumbs-up to take on hard-charging pass-rushers, the pair split some of the reps with an edge in the total number going to Wynn.
The Georgia product was reluctant to talk about his practice like it was anything out of the ordinary, but eventually he acknowledged (after a long pause) that it was a big day for him.
“Yeah. You could say that,” he said. “But every day’s important. Every day I come out here whether it’s walkthroughs or whatever it’s important. Because whatever I can do to progress and help the team that’s what I’m doing.”
Once it became clear that Wynn would be doing more in his team’s latest workout, we made sure to keep a close eye on his whereabouts. Here’s what we noticed:
1. In his one-on-one and two-on-two reps (he received one of each), Wynn held his ground. The two-on-two matchup pitted him and Ted Karras against Byron Cowart and Chase Winovich. How Wynn held up facing that kind of “game” at the line of scrimmage would translate to later in the practice.
2. In the first 11-on-11 period, focused on the running game, Wynn saw 6-of-8 reps. Then after two reps went to Skipper, Wynn saw three more consecutive snaps. In those nine snaps, he did a little bit of everything. He kicked out outside linebacker Trent Harris. He showed good mobility to get across Harris’ face and execute a reach block on a run play. He knocked Harris off the line and got to the second level quickly to latch onto linebacker Christian Sam. Wynn pulled on one play moving fluidly to meet linebacker Terez Hall in the hole and knock him aside. Wynn reached defensive end Ufomba Kamalu on one snap and then was asked to do it again.
On the second try, he couldn’t quite cut off Kamalu from flowing to the football. That was his final rep of the period. Wynn took a knee and slugged some water soon thereafter. “Conditioning wise, I’m pretty good,” he said after practice. “Still been doing everything the team does. Even when I’m not out there getting plays, I’m down on the lower field running, conditioning with the rest of the guys. And hydration, that’s always important. Always want to hydrate every single day.”
3. Wynn was able to focus on the pass-protection aspect of his job a little later in the workout, seeing seven more competitive snaps. He took on the likes of Adam Butler, Derek Rivers and Dont’a Hightower and didn’t lose a rep, absorbing the rusher across from him each time. Butler came at him from an angle, running a game similar to the one Wynn saw in two-on-two work. Wynn’s best rep might’ve been unplanned. Marcus Cannon was asked to run a lap at one point when Skipper was playing left tackle. Wynn got onto the field, told Skipper to play the right side, and smothered another game that sent Michael Bennett his way. Bennett has been hard to handle as a pass-rusher throughout camp, but Wynn did exactly that.
For someone who hasn’t seen real contact since playing the Eagles in a preseason game on Aug. 16 of last year, Wynn appeared to pass every test thrown at him. And he looked smooth in so doing.
“Shoot, man, Isaiah’s a good player,” said Rivers, who matched up with Wynn three times at the end of practice. “Strong kid. He works extremely hard. Felt good. He’s a good dude, strong kid. He’s solid, man.”
Rivers admitted that Wynn provides a bit of a changeup on the edge. He’s listed at 6-foot-2, 310 pounds — more than a half-foot shorter than Skipper.
“It’s different. It’s definitely a different look, seeing a shorter tackle compared to taller tackles,” Rivers said. “But, man, he’s such a good player. It’s a blessing to go against him every single day. The kid works hard so it makes us better.”
The Patriots need him. Though Skipper had a relatively quiet night in Detroit on Thursday — always a good thing for offensive linemen — he’s been on and off practice squads in recent seasons. The Patriots invested in Wynn to play tackle, and now there’s an opening waiting for him on the left side.
After a careful start to the summer, it looks like Wynn could be on track to play Week 1, but he wouldn’t look ahead on Monday. He’d just finished up his busiest workday of the summer, less than a year after tearing his Achilles.
“It’s good just to be able to do a little bit more,” he said. “Just keep progressing. Feels good to be back out here helping the team any way I can.”
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