Trent Brown was activated on Saturday after spending close to two months on the sidelines since sustaining a calf injury just seven snaps into the first game of the season. Brown is available to return against the Browns, providing a boost along the edges of the offense. That's good news against one of the best defensive end duos in the league.
Through training camp, Brown appeared to be headed back to the right tackle spot that he spent most of his career outside of New England playing. After he was lost against the Dolphins, the Patriots scrambled over the next few weeks of the season with different combinations, including looks at Yasir Durant (78 snaps), Justin Herron (182 snaps) and Yodny Cajuste (75 snaps) as fill-ins at the right tackle spot.
In Week 7, the offense settled in on a combination of Isaiah Wynn, Ted Karras, David Andrews, Shaq Mason and Michael Onwenu and the team has not lost since, with Onwenu returning to the right tackle position where he was outstanding as a rookie. Though the team appeared to want to move Onwenu back to his natural college position of guard earlier this season, he has picked up where he left off at right tackle, coming in as Pro Football Focus' third-rated tackle in the entire NFL.
Meanwhile, Ted Karras, chosen to take over Onwenu's left guard spot, has been solid, chipping in PFF's 6th-best pass blocking grade. After an uneven start, Isaiah Wynn has been one of the key pieces for the offensive line getting back on track, allowing just one sack and four total pressures during the three-game win streak.
Brown's pending return could complicate things for an offensive line that seems to be finding its stride. In the last three games, they've posted some of their best blocking grades, and they've ascended to PFF's 11th-best pass-blocking offensive line.
|Offensive Lineman||PFF Offensive Grade||PFF Pass Blocking Grade||PFF Run Blocking Grade|
|Isaiah Wynn - LT||71.1 (26th)||67.5 (41st)||73.5 (17th)|
|Ted Karras - LG||69.4 (22nd)||77.5 (6th)||65.0 (30th)|
|David Andrews - C||67.5 (15th)||68.6 (11th)||65.9 (20th)|
|Shaq Mason - RG||82.9 (5th)||74.5 (11th)||82.5 (8th)|
|Michael Onwenu - RT||87.8 (3rd)||69.9 (33rd)||91.4 (3rd)|
Brown's size and versatility are a big plus for the offense. He was outstanding in his only season at left tackle with the Patriots but is also a dominant force on the other side. His ability to play both left and right tackle is good insurance regardless of what happens immediately.
There are plenty of questions the team needs to answer. Do they still view Onwenu's highest potential at guard? Or is his continued high-level play at right tackle changing their mind? Do they feel Wynn's play will continue to ascend as he builds on his solid recent weeks? And how do they feel about Karras' season-long potential at left guard?
Sunday, facing Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney, Brown should provide an immediate boost, at least as a third blocker if they choose to ease him into action.
However, the offense got just seven snaps from the starting offensive line that they had in mind entering the season. It could be a good bet that no matter how well this new version has come together that they still see the Wynn-Onwenu-Andrews-Mason-Brown grouping as the one with the highest potential. Perhaps they return to that lineup against Cleveland.
Ultimately, they have some new-found depth and choices to make. Having a player of Brown's experience and stature return to the lineup has to be a good thing, even if he's simply eased in as a third blocking tackle until his role for the rest of the season becomes more apparent.
It should provide a boost to the offense as they enter an important stretch to their season.