FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots have faith in their plan to keep edge rushers away from Mac Jones.
Speaking on the eve of roster cutdown day, multiple Patriots decision-makers expressed confidence in the team’s offensive tackle depth.
“Everybody’s looking for good players right now,” director of player personnel Matt Groh said Monday at Gillette Stadium. “There are not too many teams in the league that aren’t looking for tackles. We feel very fortunate in the guys that we have. Looking across the league, we feel very fortunate and very confident in those guys going forward. It’s up to them to keep working here, and I think they’ve all taken a step under a lot of direction, a lot of hard work from everybody in the building. We feel good about that.”
Trent Brown and Isaiah Wynn project as starters at left and right tackle, respectively, switching sides from where they aligned in 2021. Both have extensive NFL starting experience but have battled numerous injuries in recent years.
Third-year pro Justin Herron and fourth-year pro Yodny Cajuste are competing for the No. 3 tackle spot. Herron has struggled in his appearances at right tackle but generally has played well on the left side. Cajuste has played offensive snaps in just three career games — and was benched in one — but enjoyed a strong training camp.
(UPDATE: Cajuste missed practice Monday. The reason for his absence was unclear.)
Head coach Bill Belichick’s outlook on that position group wasn’t as rosy as Groh’s, but he said the Patriots’ tackle depth is “not bad.”
“We have two players that are pretty established starters,” Belichick said, “and two young players that are continuing to get better, that have some playing time — Justin more than Yodny, and Yasir (Durant) — but they both played.”
Coaching that unit is Matt Patricia, who is working on the offensive side of the ball for the first time since 2005 and is splitting his focus between the offensive line and play-calling duties. Patricia, like Groh, said the Patriots have enviable depth at tackle.
“I think it’s been great,” he said. “All of those guys that have been out there competing. We’ve really had five and maybe swung a couple extra guys out there into the position, so it’s been good for us to have all of that flex. Certainly with Isaiah and Trent going out there with the first group, but Yodny and Herron kind of rotating in there, I think those are four really good players.
“I think the competition has been great, and I think they’ve tried to push each other and grow and learn. And I would say that’s not always the case. You don’t always have that many good players in a position that you can kind of roll through there and feel like, ‘Hey, we can go play with these guys.’ So I thought that was really good in camp.”
Of all the Patriots’ tackles, Wynn has faced the most scrutiny as Week 1 approaches. The fifth-year veteran is playing a position he’s never played in the NFL or college, missed a portion of the preseason with an undisclosed injury and has been mentioned in trade rumors. Dealing Wynn would free up $10.4 million in salary cap space but would strain New England’s depth at an important position.
“I think (Wynn) and Trent, all of those guys have done a really good job,” Patricia said. “Isaiah is just a solid, steady rock of a player. Nothing really phases him. He’s done a great job with his technique in flipping over to the other side, but he’s extremely athletic and extremely gifted as a player. So I’m not surprised at that transition and where he’s at right now with that.”