What downgrading Isaiah Wynn means for the Patriots against the Bills

Isaiah Wynn did not join his New England Patriots teammates on their trip to Buffalo. The Patriots’ starting left tackle was ruled out of Friday’s playoff game against the Bills after missing both practices this week with hip and ankle injuries.

Wynn’s loss is important for the New England offense. Mac Jones’ blindside protector may have had its ups and downs, especially at the start of this season, but he’s clearly the team’s best option at left tackle and solid both as a run blocker and password protector.

His absence also forces the team’s technical staff to make a decision: leave with the five best players available or try to keep as much continuity as possible?

There are two possible offensive line configurations to consider:

Patriots offensive line options

Left tackle Left guard Center right guard Right tackle
Left tackle Left guard Center right guard Right tackle
Trent Brown Ted Karra david andrews Shaq Mason Michel Onwenu
Justin Heron Ted Karra david andrews Shaq Mason Trent Brown

The first of these two projected lineups would allow the Patriots to get their top five available linemen on the field at the same time. Trent Brown would move to the left side, second-year Michael Onwenu taking over at right tackle.

Both Brown and Onwenu have looked good this season, although the latter was relegated to substitute status after being New England’s starting left guard and right tackle earlier in the year. The problem is that this group has no experience playing together, which could be a bet against a defense as talented as Buffalo’s.

The second possible formation would allow four of the five starters to remain in their current positions. The only change would be to insert sophomore Justin Herron in place of Wynn — a decision that was also made last week when the starter left the regular season finale against the Miami Dolphins.

Herron is a clear downgrade from Wynn and doesn’t offer the benefit or experience of a Brown/Onwenu pairing, but the fact that only one position would be impacted instead of two might be better from a perspective of New England. Add the fact that Brown apparently hasn’t practiced left tackle since the spring, and one might wonder if the Herron-Karras-Andrews-Mason-Brown line is most likely to be used.

The Patriots still have more than 24 hours to make that call, but they probably already know after a week of practice without Isaiah Wynn.

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