If you’re reading this, and under the age of 40, you probably haven’t spent many moments of your life worrying about the New England Patriots’ left tackle position.
That point was accentuated Wednesday when fans voted Matt Light, the team’s left tackle from 2001 to 2011, into the Patriots Hall of Fame. Light, a three-time Pro Bowl selection and 2007 first-team All-Pro, was preceded by six-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro Bruce Armstrong (who played through a torn ACL 12 seasons before Logan Mankins) and succeeded by Nate Solder. Solder was signed away by the New York Giants in free agency this offseason and is now the highest-paid offensive tackle in the NFL.
You even can go back further. Armstrong was drafted in 1987 and started his career at right tackle before moving to the left side, replacing Danny Villa, in 1990. But Brian Holloway, a three-time Pro Bowler, manned the position from 1981 to 1986.
The Patriots’ next left tackle doesn’t just have two big shoes to fill, he has eight.
Since the Patriots have essentially only had three left tackles (all of whom were selected by New England in the first or second round) since 1990, it would be fun and fitting if 2018 23rd overall pick Isaiah Wynn became the next in line to start at the position for a near decade.
Wynn is competing with Trent Brown, LaAdrian Waddle and Cole Croston, among others, to protect Tom Brady’s blind side. Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia seemed most excited by the prospect of Wynn, who’s 6-foot-2, 302 pounds, or Brown, who’s 6-foot-8, 355 pounds, starting. Wynn and Brown, who could accurately recreate the “Twins” movie poster (if you’ve ever stepped foot in a Hollywood Video, you don’t even need to click on that link), will battle it out in August during training camp practices and preseason games.
Patriots fans should be rooting for DeVito — err, Wynn, despite his lack of size, on the account of continuity. Brown, acquired last month in a trade with the San Francisco 49ers, is on the last year of his contract. A season starting for the Patriots at left tackle likely would garner him a massive deal on the open market next year. Wynn, meanwhile, soon will be signed to a four-year contract with a fifth-year team option. There are few better bargains in sports than a solid left tackle on a rookie contract.
Light cautioned fans Wednesday in a conference call with the media that replacing Solder won’t be easy. It was sage advice, since it did prove relatively simple for the Patriots to find successors for Armstrong and Light. It won’t always be that effortless.
The Patriots are fortunate, once again, to have two intriguing options to bookend the offensive line opposite Marcus Cannon. But some growing pains are to be expected for both Wynn and Brown. Only time will tell if the Patriots’ luck will live on or run out as they score this summer’s match for the left tackle position in camp.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images