After a substandard start to the season, the Patriots offense is hoping to get a nice boost this weekend against the Cowboys from the return of left tackle Isaiah Wynn.
Drafted 23rd overall in 2018, Wynn missed his rookie season with a torn Achilles and suffered a turf toe injury in Week 2 this season that landed him on Injured Reserve. After returning from IR and missing the requisite four games, Wynn is now eligible to get back into game action and offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia was excited to have him.
"Right now, what we're seeing is a guy who's completely healthy, stronger than he's been," said Scarnecchia on Friday. "We thought he was a good player when we went into the season. We think even that much more of him now. We think we've got a guy who's completely healthy. None of us can predict the future, but we all want the best for this kid. He's really a good guy."
How confident is Scarnecchia in Wynn?
"I'm really confident," Scarnecchia immediately shot back.
Bill Belichick has eased Wynn back into things over the past few weeks. His first day back on the practice field it was hard to miss the huge smile on his face.
"Isaiah always works hard," said Belichick on Friday. "He did a lot of scout team work to get his timing back and all of that, so working against a defense. But yeah, he works hard and he's always ready to go."
Even Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett had high praise for Wynn despite the injury-plagued start to his career.
"Obviously, [Wynn's] a really good player," Garrett said on a conference call with reporters this week. "Everybody liked him coming out of school, and they took him in the first round for a reason, because he's a talented guy and you can see that when you watch his tape, both at the college level and then when you see the snaps he's played in the NFL. He's big, he's athletic, he plays the game with a competitive spirit, and he's a good player. He's going to be a good player for a long time."
While Wynn was out, the Patriots offensive line had their struggles. Marshall Newhouse, signed two days after the opening night victory over the Steelers in the wake of an injury to Marcus Cannon, has been a fixture at left tackle since Wynn went down that very next weekend in Miami. Newhouse has been a popular target of those looking to pin the blame for the Patriots offensive struggles, but Scarnecchia stood up for the veteran.
"I think that Marshall's done everything we could ask for him to do," said Scarnecchia. "He's a conscientious guy. Look, whatever amount of games we've won since the beginning, this guy's been part it the whole time. And he's started at two positions for us. Came off the streets and started. What do you want me to do? I think the guy's done as good as he could possibly do and given us everything he's got. You can't ask any more so I'm very pleased."
But the offensive line coach didn't hide how he too felt about the performance of the Patriots run game, currently ranked 18th in Football Outsiders DVOA, their lowest ranking since 2003.
"Terribly dissatisfied with it," Scarnecchia said of the ground game. "We're not running the ball like we need to run the ball. We strive to do better, we're working at it. We believe in balance in our offense so we have to do a better job of that."
Hopefully Wynn's return can help turn things around. Still, the 36-year NFL coaching veteran didn't see this being much different from the annual challenges he's faced many times in his career.
"It's just a regular season," said Scarnecchia. "You have ups and downs, you have guys that aren't able to play, you have guys that are able to play, sometimes you have everybody out there for every snap. It is what it is. You just have to work as hard as you can, they have to work has hard as they can and that's what they're doing. We appreciate everything they're doing. Hopefully we'll improve and we'll have the kind of line we want to have around here. They're working at it."
Practice & Injury Report
The Patriots were missing starting right tackle Marcus Cannon from the start of their overcast and cool Friday practice. Cannon had not appeared on the injury report this week so his absence was a surprise and a concerning one at that, but Dante Scarnecchia would later pass along that it was just a sickness and that Cannon is still expected to be ready to go on Sunday. Mohamed Sanu was present as he was on Thursday and was limited, a positive sign that he might possibly be available to play against the Cowboys.
No one was ruled out on Friday, but Tom Brady popped up with a right elbow issue. Other new additions include Matthew Slater and Jason McCourty, along with Cannon. There will be plenty to keep an eye out for when the injury downgrades come out.
LB Ja'Whaun Bentley, Knee (LP)
QB Tom Brady, Right Elbow (LP)
OT Marcus Cannon, Illness (LP)
S Patrick Chung, Heel/Chest (LP)
WR Phillip Dorsett, Concussion (LP)
S Nate Ebner, Ankle/Back (LP)
WR Julian Edelman, Shoulder (LP)
RB Damien Harris, Hamstring (LP)
CB Jason McCourty, Groin (LP)
WR Mohamed Sanu, Ankle (LP)
DE John Simon, Elbow (LP)
WR Matthew Slater, Hamstring (LP)
Locker Room Sound Bites
Joe Judge on winning the NFL:
"The only thing that matters in the National Football League is getting a win. All we care about as a team is winning. Whether it's offense, defense, or special teams contributing, all 53 guys in that locker room, that's all we care about at the end of the day, on Sunday night. We work all week long and we know each game is going to have its own feel and flow to it. Every play has a history and a life of its own. And we have to play that way.
"Our only focusing is improving week in and week out, and when you get a win at the end of the week, that's tough to do in this league. I don't care if you win by 70 or lose by two, you go in the next day on Monday and you're as critical as you can be on every technique, every assignment and you make sure every player gets everything they need to go out there the next day and execute it right. That's what they want when the come in on Mondays. They don't want you to pat them on the back and say "atta boy," they want you to come in and say "what could I have done to be a better player?" Cause all we're trying to do is help them do their best job possible and they want to come in and get that information that's going to help them do that."