Antonio Brown is more buzzworthy than Isaiah Wynn, but even he might not have as a big a make-or-break effect on the New England Patriots' stroll to the Super Bowl as the redshirt freshman tackle.
The Patriots are placing Wynn, who injured his foot Sunday against the Dolphins, on injured reserve. He'll miss at least eight weeks. The most important position as it relates to protecting Tom Brady isn't just a question mark, it's and bold and italicized font. Big as hell.
It's hard to look at the Patriots right now and worry -- they're not going to, like, lose a game soon or anything -- but how the Patriots fare in the regular season is never really in question. They're going to tear it up against a bunch of inferior opponents, then play a few difficult games late in the season and finish with a bye. Tale as old as time.
But we measure success in championships here, and going into the season, the only thing that could put the Patriots' championship hopes at risk would be if Wynn, coming off a rookie season lost to injury and replacing the now-highest-paid-lineman-in-the-league Trent Brown (who signed with the Raiders), was either ineffective or hurt.
He looked like a stud in the preseason, so questions about whether he could play were quelled a bit. Then starting center David Andrews was lost for the season with blood clots and right tackle Marcus Cannon got hurt. The Pats were already down two guys on the offensive line before Wynn got hurt.
I don't understand Pro Football Focus' grades and neither do you, but through the first two weeks, Wynn is graded as the 11th-best pass-blocking left tackle. He's passed the eye test, too.
We don't know how Marshall Newhouse (the guy who played in his place) did because he was playing against the stupid Dolphins. The Pats reportedly signed another guy, Caleb Benenoch, on Tuesday. The sooner Cannon gets back, the better, but even when Wynn returns, he'll have still missed at least 24 of 26 career regular-season games since entering the league. Can a team that's so well set-up otherwise to win a Super Bowl just cross its fingers that the left tackle can stay healthy long enough to get them through a playoff run?
Teams are trading first-round picks like hotcakes these days. Granted, that's because the players getting traded are first-round picks on their rookie deals, but the point stands. Big deals are happening.
And for a team that's so clearly built to win the Super Bowl, it would be worth making a big splash to stabilize things at left tackle. Trent Williams, 31, is holding out for Washington and they're 0-2 to start the season. With an estimated $7.53 million in cap space according to Spotrac, the Patriots would probably need to create space to fit him, but the Patriots should at least look into it. They're too good across the board to just hope for the best up front.
Make no mistake, Dante Scarnecchia has his reputation for a reason. He turns offensive linemen who might burn out elsewhere into stars. But this is a thin, injury-riddled group that's being tasked with blocking for (earmuffs) a quarterback in his 40s who could naturally begin to sense pressure when it isn't there more and more.
AB's antics? They can just cut him if he gets bad enough. Tight end? They can make do. Stephen Gostkowski missing a couple of kicks? Please. The offensive line is a different story, and really the only thing that could get in the way of another Super Bowl.
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