It’s been weeks since Trent Brown played a snap for the New England Patriots, but Bill Belichick likes what he’s seen from the mammoth offensive tackle behind the scenes.
The Patriots coach said Friday he’s been encouraged by Brown’s progress. Brown returned to practice earlier this week after a prolonged stint on injured reserve.
“Trent’s all in every day,” Belichick said in a video conference. “Does what we ask him to do. He’s been a little bit limited at times, but he’s tried not to let that affect what he can do, and he continues to work on things that he can do. Sometimes it’s limited, but he’s made good progress. We’ll just take it day by day here, but we’ll see where we are today and then evaluate his week and go from there.”
Brown suffered a calf injury on the opening series of Week 1 and hasn’t played since. He could make his return to the lineup Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, but that’s no guarantee, as the Patriots have until Dec. 1 to activate him off IR.
Once Brown is ready to return, Belichick and his staff will have a difficult decision to make. After struggling early in the season as they rotated through several Brown replacements, the Patriots’ offensive line has stabilized of late, with Mike Onwenu playing well at right tackle and Isaiah Wynn showing improvement on the left side.
New England will need to choose whether to reinsert Brown at right tackle, where he started the season; play him over Wynn at left tackle, where he excelled in 2018; or stick with what’s working and use him in a reserve role.
“He’s working his butt off,” offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo said Tuesday, before Brown returned to practice. “Every time I see him around in the halls, he’s got a towel around his neck and sweating, so he must be doing something.”
The Browns have been one of the NFL’s top pass-rushing teams this season but are dealing with multiple injuries up front. NFL sacks leader Myles Garrett missed practice Wednesday and Thursday with a foot injury, putting his status for Sunday in doubt. Defensive end Takkarist McKinley (groin) also has yet to practice this week, and Jadeveon Clowney (ankle/knee) and Malik Jackson (knee) both were limited Thursday.