NASHVILLE — At the start of training camp, one of the biggest question marks for the Patriots loomed over one of the most important positions on the football field.
Left tackle was far from secure. There was no real sense of who would be protecting Tom Brady’s blind side because Isaiah Wynn didn’t seem anywhere near being ready to go.
Fear no more. Perhaps the best takeaway from Saturday night’s 22-17 preseason victory against the Titans was seeing Wynn in the lineup, and seeing a competent player perform so well at the position.
Wynn played the first three series to start the game with Brian Hoyer as the quarterback.
While the offensive line had some issues during the night and got Hoyer roughed up a few times, there were no problems with Wynn, who is a year removed from the left Achilles tear he suffered in a preseason game.
He looked the part of a dominant left tackle, locking up Titans defenders every play he was in there.
The lone touchdown the Patriots scored in the first half, a sweep left by Brandon Bolden, was created by a monster block by fullback Jakob Johnson along with Wynn finishing off his man.
While there were some concerns about Wynn’s readiness to play, the Patriots 2018 first-round pick moved well. His technique was excellent as he held off Amani Bledsoe, Kamalei Correa and Brent Urban during his playing time in the first quarter and a bit beyond.
During the week against the Titans in the joint practices, he rotated in with the starters, but didn’t take many reps before giving way to Dan Skipper.
Saturday night’s game was his most consistent activity. The increased workload certainly was an encouraging step and reinforced the notion Wynn be ready to go on opening night against the Steelers. The former University of Georgia tackle had acknowledged during the week he finally felt 100 percent and was on target to play in the season opener.
“Yeah, I’m working out here every day to get prepared for that,” Wynn told reporters Wednesday after the Patriots’ first joint practice with the Titans. “Whatever they need me for, I’m here for.”
While the Patriots initially did not put him on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list, that didn’t allay fears. Wynn basically was a bystander during practice, not taking part in any competitive drills.
But little by little, he’s been getting involved in the more meaningful drills before finally seeing game action against the Titans.
He said Wednesday he no longer thinks about the injury that robbed him of his rookie season. That much was evident when he literally lifted Bolden off the ground to celebrate after the back’s TD run.
Wynn was expected to compete for the starting job in 2018, but spent the season rehabbing while Trent Brown took over at left tackle and played so well, he earned a huge free agent contract with the Oakland Raiders during the offseason.
The recovery time and nature of the injury, of course, has left a bit of uncertainty. It’s never easy for a big man to recover from an Achilles injury, especially one who plays on the offensive line. The Patriots attempted to get some help early on, but every veteran tackle they acquired as an insurance policy either retired, quit, or didn’t make the cut.
At one point, it looked like Joe Thuney might move over from left guard and hold the fort at left tackle until Wynn was ready. Skipper, however, has been getting the majority of the reps of late. At best, he’s serviceable. That’s not what you’re looking for in front of a 42-year-old quarterback.
Watching Wynn in the small samples of late, he is so much better. He’s strong and uses his feet well. Once he locks up a defender, it’s over. That much was obvious during the Titans game.
That’s exactly what the GOAT will need from his left tackle going forward.