Offensive tackle's comments are a gloomy indicator for the Patriots' offense

No true left tackle is a troubling signal for Pats' 2024 hopes
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The New England Patriots 2023 offense was a shadow of its former self under Tom Brady's two decades of brilliance. During that period, the Pats drafted left tackles high, including stalwarts Matt Light and Nate Solder, second- and first-round picks, respectively.

These two tackles formed an essential aspect of protecting the best and helped lead the team to a brilliant and unprecedented run of dominance in the AFC East, the AFC, and the NFL overall. Bill Belichick forgot this lesson, and while his final years as Head Coach featured Trent Brown much of the time, his inconsistent play behooved the former top man to bolster the position heavily. He didn't.

In addition, his successor in personnel, Eliot Wolf, has persisted in this head-scratching omission and now enters the 2024 season with no true left tackle on hand. The presumptive possessors of that critical role are former right tackles, free agency signee Chukwuma Okorafor, and rookie draftee Caedan Wallace. The veteran Okorafor's recent comments are especially troubling.

Patriots' Okorafor says his transition to left tackle will take time

Okorafor is entering his seventh NFL season after six in Pittsburgh. He was deployed primarily during his first six seasons as a right tackle. Now, he may be tabbed by the Patriots as their starting left tackle. This is the new personnel head, Eliot Wolf's most glaring offseason blunder.

Playing left tackle is an entirely different situation than the right. Left tackles play on an island and need special skills and footwork to protect the quarterback's blindside. They're undoubtedly any team's second most important player. Additionally, if you deploy a rookie quarterback like Drake Maye, having a lockdown left tackle is even more essential.

Okorafor had this to say recently about making the transition as quoted by,

“It will take time, but I know who I am and what I can do.”... “I played right my whole time in Pitt.,” he explained. “It’s obviously new. I’m trying to learn left as of now. I’m just trying to learn a whole new playbook. I’m trying to learn a whole new city, a whole new town. So, everything is kind of new to me now but I’m blessed.”

Certainly, it's not on Okorafor for him to be required to make this very complicated transition. It's on Eliot Wolf. It's baffling how an NFL team's top personnel man can conduct an offseason and not address the second most important position on the squad, especially when there are no solid ones on the roster.

Tabbing rookie former right tackle Caedan Wallace as a potential left tackle is silly

Further confusing the situation are comments by Wolf suggesting that rookie Caedan Wallace, a former right tackle at Penn State, may be an option on the left side. At least Okorafor has NFL experience, albeit on the right. Wallace has no experience in the NFL nor at left tackle, six snaps in college notwithstanding.

The left tackle is the key to your team's pass-blocking. Having a potential turnstile at the position is a prescription for another quick trip to the bottom of the AFC East. How Mr. Wolf could neglect this critical position in free agency and the draft defies explanation.

If anything sinks this season, it will be this glaring gaffe, and as in 2023 under Belichick, it could very well do so before it even begins. Again, it begs the question, how can an experienced NFL personnel manager not understand this position's importance and address it demonstrably with at least two additions there?

Okorafor's honest statement and Wallace's rookie enthusiasm, thinking he can man the left, are nicely optimistic but not inspiring. The Patriots can't wait for Okorafor or Wallace to learn a new position. It's unlikely they can, anyway. And, should the Patriots deploy rookie quarterback Drake Maye (it's suggested here they should), they will put the talented rookie decidedly in harm's way.

The Patriots have again botched this situation to a fare-thee-well. Even if they trade for or otherwise bring in a capable left tackle, they will still have wasted top resources on two right tackles when the position is already manned by the highly compensated re-signee Mike Onwenu.

Barring an unforeseen action to add a capable left tackle before training camp or the emergence of dual-threat quarterback Drake Maye as a star from the get-go, the New England Patriots can expect another last-place AFC East finish in 2024. The regrettable thing about all this is it was entirely avoidable.

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