For the 2018 New England Patriots, arguably the biggest question of the season may already be answered. Picking up where he left off for most of his minicamp debut, Brown again took starting left tackle duties on the first day of training camp in Foxboro on Thursday. He was somewhat limited during OTAs and minicamp and wasn’t always taking first team reps, but Brown took the lead on Thursday for sure and looks to be first in line to replace the departed Nate Solder.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that Brown will be the starting left tackle at the end of the season, and/or whether he’ll work out at all in a Patriots uniform. But the former San Francisco 49ers tackle is the clear leader in the clubhouse to man Tom Brady’s blind side in 2018.
Telling reporters after practice that his shoulder’s “fine” after the injury limited him early on in his Patriots career, Brown sounded ready to take on whatever role – and responsibility – he’ll have no matter where he ends up on the O-line.
“If you’re out there on that first five, there’s a lot of responsibility, regardless,” a laconic Brown said.
Head coach Bill Belichick acknowledged in his pre-practice presser that he feels Brown is “working well with the team” and has done everything the Patriots have asked him to do, despite his early limitations. If Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia can take Brown, who mostly played right tackle with the 49ers, and get enough out of him to make a shockingly smooth transition from Solder, it would be perhaps his best achievement in New England.
The Patriots better hope Brown can continue to hold on to left tackle, because there’s no obvious or immediate alternative behind him. Unless you count first-round pick Isaiah Wynn, who played left tackle with the second team on Thursday. Wynn projects more as a guard long-term, but played left tackle at Georgia and could end up in a competition with Brown for the starting spot on the left side.
Joe Thuney resumed his previous role as the starting left guard on Thursday, ostensibly putting him in the lead for that spot. Brown and Wynn played left tackle and left guard, respectively, for much of training camp while Thuney was absent. So it’s unclear where Wynn ultimately fits in, but it would be hard to believe that the team’s first-rounder would start the season as a backup guard, let alone a backup left tackle.
It’ll be up to Brown to continue to put a stronger hold on left tackle as training camp goes on. It’s hard to tell how the linemen are performing before the team straps on full pads, but Brown’s presence as the starting left tackle is a good sign for him, and for the offense in terms of keeping things running smoothly up front.
It’s also worth noting the obligatory fact that Brown is absolutely large. Standing at a conservative 6-foot-8 and pushing 350 pounds, he towers over everyone. But that size could help make the transition from the similarly mountainous Solder easier.
No NFL team can afford to have even a question mark, let alone a liability, at left tackle. Especially one with a 41-year-old, Hall of Fame quarterback. The question will remain for a while, but Brown is at least on a promising path toward becoming the answer.
— By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.