With mandatory minicamp underway for the New England Patriots, here is what the team might look like at offensive tackle when thee season starts
Parts one through four of 12 analyzed the skill positions on offense. Part five of 12 continues with a look on a position with considerable turnover this offseason: the offensive tackle position.
OFFENSIVE TACKLE: (4)
Back-up(s): Isaiah Wynn, LaAdrian Waddle
Probably the biggest competition heading towards training camp involves the offensive line. With the loss of longtime left tackle Nate Solder, the Patriots have a hole at left tackle for the first time since Bill Belichick’s first season in New England in 2000 before Matt Light settled in left tackle and then passed the torch to Solder after 2011.
The Patriots have 2016 second-team All Pro Marcus Cannon returning at right tackle after his 2017 season was cut short due to injury. Cannon is likely to stay on the right side with returning swing tackle LaAdrian Waddle expected to compete with former 49ers tackle Trent Brown and 2018 first round draft pick Isaiah Wynn to start at left tackle.
The coaching staff would likely prefer that Wynn win the job outright, but they are not handing the job to him outright. Wynn will need to come into training camp ready to compete and show the naysayers after the draft that his lack of height and reach will not deter him from being a solid NFL tackle.
Waddle played almost entirely on the right side since coming to New England late in the 2016 season. Last year Waddle came in at right tackle for Cannon and shut down (a hobbled) J.J. Watt, Joey Bosa, Von Miller, and Khalil Mack before he missed much of the second half of the season due to injury. With Cameron Fleming leaving in free agency, the Patriots may try Waddle on the left side in camp but he remains likely to be the swing tackle.
Trent Brown did not get a lot of attention when New England traded a third round draft pick for the massive San Francisco tackle. Brown is not the mobile tackle that the 49ers new offensive line coach John Benton is looking to install. However, Brown has the size, nasty attitude and long arms that New England offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia loves.
On the Bubble:
The Patriots have a pair of undrafted University of Iowa tackles in free agent signing Matt Tobin and last year’s surprise 53-man roster addition Cole Croston. Neither one is overly athletic but they are big and they both came from head coach Kirk Ferentz’s system in Iowa. Ferentz is a friend of Bill Belichick who runs a similar pro-style blocking scheme and sends offensive linemen to the NFL with the skills to block in the NFL. Croston and Tobin are both real possibilities to grab a reserve role in 2018.
Ulrick John is a name not well known to NFL fans. John has been with Indianapolis, Miami, Arizona and Green Bay in his four seasons since being a seventh round draft pick. A college teammate of guard Shaq Mason, John is long and athletic and will be in the mix with Croston, Tobin, and Waddle for the back-up role at tackle.
Andrew Jelks has not played in a football game since November 2014 when he was a sophomore for Vanderbilt. He tore his ACL two straight seasons and was stashed on injured reserve after being an undrafted free agent signing. He looked like a potential NFL player before the injuries struck and right now he is a complete unknown and likely competing for a practice squad spot.
At this time, Brown–with experience starting on both sides of the line–has the advantage over the oft-injured, best-at-right-tackle Waddle and inexperienced Wynn. Of course, all that can change during camp.