We get it: Predicting Trent Brown will be the most impactful Patriots newcomer this season is kind of weird, as the mountainous offensive tackle played in New England in 2018. He’s not exactly “new” to the Patriots.
However, there only are 20 players — including Brown — on the current roster who part of the Patriots’ Super Bowl-winning 2018 campaign. Of those 20, one is on the practice squad (Brian Hoyer); one is on PUP (Stephon Gilmore); and at least five others either were hurt or didn’t have significant roles that season.
This is a largely different roster, led by a rookie quarterback, than the one Brown left when he signed with the then-Oakland Raiders during March of 2019. Plus, as we’ll get into in a bit, Brown is a different player and person now than he was a few years ago.
So, let’s consider him a newcomer.
Anyway, here are some reasons why Brown — not Nelson Agholor, Matt Judon, Mac Jones or Jonnu Smith — will make a bigger impact in 2021 than any other Patriots player added during the offseason.
He’s really, really good
Brown’s six-year career has been a strange one.
He showed strong ability but questionable effort during three seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, was an absolute force his one season in New England and was just so-so while missing a combined 16 games after Jon Gruden signed him to a record-breaking deal.
Through it all, one thing has been clear: Brown’s enormous talent. As he proved in 2018, the 6-foot-8, 380-pounder can be one of the most dominant tackles in the NFL.
And, still just 28 years old, Brown hasn’t “slipped” at all — quite the opposite, in fact. He basically looked like 2018 Trent Brown during training camp and the preseason, if not better. Sure, some of the quicker edge rushers in the league will get around him but, more often than not, Brown will stand up against anyone.
He’s a better pass blocker than run blocker, but Brown absolutely is in asset in the run game. He’s a complete tackle.
Ultimately, this is what sets Brown apart from the rest of the newcomers.
Brown has played right tackle for most of his career, and that’s the position at which he’ll begin this season. However, the finest campaign of his career came in 2018, when he played left tackle for the Patriots.
It’s not normal for a swing tackle to be as good as Brown is at both positions. Bill Belichick will tell you all about it. That Brown has looked as comfortable at right tackle as he has since rejoining the Patriots should not be taken for granted.
Given Isaiah Wynn’s injury history, the Patriots probably can bet on sliding Brown over to left tackle at some point in 2021, while expecting him to perform at a high level. The value of that can’t be understated.
The rookie quarterback
This one is pretty straightforward, and it’s all related.
When rookie quarterbacks struggle, offensive line failures are a big culprit. We’ve seen many young signal-callers get mauled early in their careers and never recover — Sam Darnold and Daniel Jones come to mind.
(We’ll see on Darnold. Jones probably is a lost cause.)
Thankfully for Mac Jones, he’ll enter his rookie season with one of the best offensive lines in football, with Brown leading the way. Not only can Jones bank on strong pass protection, but he also should be able to rely on the running game, thus taking pressure off him to do everything himself.
Brown at various points in his career has earned an iffy reputation for occasionally dogging it and not living up to his potential. Concerns about Brown potentially returning to New England as a lesser-motivated player with heavier pockets were valid — at the time.
But Brown seemed like a different person this summer, one who is far more willing to lead than he was a few years ago. Belichick has spoken glowingly about Brown’s maturity.
Perhaps New England simply is where Brown needs to be for him to stay focused and perform to his capabilities. He indicated as much shortly after he was traded back to the Patriots.
Whatever the reason, Brown once again looks like a great fit with the Patriots.