Isaiah Wynn has endured a stint on injured reserve in each of his first two NFL seasons. The New England Patriots cannot afford a third.
Health and availability will be paramount this season for Wynn, New England’s promising but injury-prone left tackle.
A torn Achilles wiped out Wynn’s entire rookie season. A toe injury cost him half of his sophomore campaign. Entering his third year as a pro, the 2018 first-round draft pick has appeared in just nine of a possible 36 games, including playoffs.
A lack of quality depth behind Wynn and right tackle Marcus Cannon hamstrung New England’s offense a year ago. Now, that talent pool is even shallower, with Cannon opting out of the season and the Patriots declining to add any veterans at the position this offseason.
The Patriots currently have four tackles on their 80-man roster: Wynn, Korey Cunningham (seven NFL appearances), Yodny Cajuste (zero) and rookie Justin Herron (zero). They also have Joe Thuney, who said he’d be willing to move from left guard to tackle if called upon. Thuney filled in at left tackle last spring and summer while Wynn worked his way back from his Achilles tear.
Barring a late free agent addition, one of Thuney, Cunningham, Cajuste or Herron likely will start at right tackle in Week 1. Another would serve as the swing tackle — the backup for both spots — and would be pressed into action if Wynn goes down again.
Wynn is doing his best to ensure that doesn’t happen.
Fully healthy entering training camp for the first time in his Patriots career, the 23-year-old said he used this offseason — which featured no full-team practices or workouts because of the COVID-19 pandemic — to build strength and fine-tune his technique. He hopes this work will help elevate his game — and keep him on the field.
“This offseason, I actually got a chance to just work on the small things as far as just strengthening my body as opposed to having to rehab anything, given that this is kind of my first official offseason that was healthy,” Wynn said Monday in a video call with reporters. “So I feel great. …
“(I worked on) getting stronger, technique and breaking down film. All that stuff, sometimes it can get overlooked by the bigger picture, but when it all comes down to it, the little things are really what matter. That’s the details.”
Wynn’s primary focus, he said, has been on “consistency.”
“I don’t want to speak too much on it, because I’d rather show it on the field,” the Georgia product said when asked where he’s improved the most since the end of 2019. “But I’ve been working on my consistency in all aspects. That’s one thing that will be a lot different this year — consistency in all aspects of my game.”
Wynn started the Patriots’ first two and final six regular-season games last season, allowing two sacks and 14 total pressures in 294 pass-blocking snaps, per Pro Football Focus. He finished the year as PFF’s 34th-highest-graded tackle (out of 82 qualifiers).
“You learn every game,” Wynn said. “Specifically for me, actually being out there during those games, I got a feel for what it’s like being in the game. It’s been good. Now, that’s translated to this offseason this season, so I’m feeling good about it.”