FOXBOROUGH — For the first time since 2012, the Patriots entered the season with a new left tackle protecting Tom Brady’s blind side.
Along with drafting Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn in the first round, the Pats swapped picks with the 49ers to acquire tackle Trent Brown.
Brown, one of the league’s largest players at 6-8 and 380 pounds, assumed the starting role at left tackle out of camp.
He’s now seven games into his Patriots career, and couldn’t be happier to be in New England.
“I love it here,” Brown said in the Patriots locker room. “It’s probably the best thing that could’ve happened to my career. I think this is an opportunity of a lifetime.”
Brown is making the most of his opportunity allowing only one sack in the Patriots’ first seven games of the season, and it comes at an excellent time for the fourth-year pro in a contract year.
“For me to be in my fourth year, a contract year moving to the left side, being around a great group of guys; great team, great coaches, and being able to play with an actual great the greatest of all-time at quarterback it’s been a blessing to be here,” the Pats left tackle said.
As teammates, coaches, and fans have witnessed over the last two months the behemoth Brown doesn’t only have size and strength; he also has speed.
Brown’s footspeed takes many by surprise, but the 25-year-old said it’s a result of playing multiple positions in youth football, even running back and quarterback.
“Some of it is God-given, but I played running back and quarterback,” Brown said. “I played every single position besides offensive line growing up until I got to High School…I had good feet, and just went from there.”
Although Brown is light on his feet, when the Patriots acquired him from San Francisco in April he admitted that the prospects of switching to the left side of the offensive line took him by surprise.
Before the 2018 season, Brown only started two of his 28 career games at left tackle, and the transition hasn’t been as smooth as he has made it look from the outside.
“Definitely some difficulties,” Brown said about the switch to left tackle. “Going from being a shoe-in at right tackle not really expecting to be playing left any time soon with Joe [Staley] being on the left side, I was just settling in and getting real comfortable over there on the right, but business is business. I got traded. I came here, and they wanted me to play left, and I just had to get in there and get to it.”
Luckily for Brown and the Patriots, Tom Brady’s new backside protector has the league’s best offensive line coach in Dante Scarnecchia to help Brown with the transition.
And Brown knows that Scarnecchia’s guidance has helped him improve this season.
“A lot, I mean a lot,” Brown said of how much Scarnnecia has helped him. “From the drill work, from the way he coaches, the way we get taught around here. Everything. Everything gets tied into together. I can feel myself getting better week in and week out.”
The one area where Brown has clearly developed with the Patriots is as a run blocker.
When the Patriots made the trade for Brown, he was renowned for his abilities as a pass blocker, but he has shown improvement every week in the running game.
Over the last three weeks, Brown’s run blocking grade has increased from 58.2 in the first four weeks of the season to 69.2 according to Pro Football Focus.
The Pats left tackle mentioned himself that he’s in a contract year, and the switch to left tackle as well as the improvement as a run blocker will do wonders for him in free agency.
But he insisted that he doesn’t think about his contract status and that he’d love to return to the Patriots next season saying, “I don’t [think about my contract]. I just control what I can control and that will take care of itself…if they want me back, I’m willing to stay.”
The Patriots know they may have found a hidden gem in Brown at a fraction of the cost of now Giants left tackle Nate Solder.
And his teammates on the other side of the ball’s hatred of going against him in practice sums up how imposing he can be to opponents.
“[It’s] terrible,” said defensive tackle Adam Butler. “He’s so big, and he’s so strong. It’s very difficult to get a good strike on him and be able to see like you want to see. He’s so much wider than other offensive linemen that you really have to over-exaggerate your technique to see around him, and if you can’t see around him, you just have to guess and hope whatever move you make is the right move.”
During spring practices, Brown’s immense size drew everyone’s attention, but his strong play is what’s on everyone’s mind now in the Patriots locker room.
And if he continues to play at this level, he’s going to have a contract that matches his physical stature.
On Wednesday, we spoke with Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia about Trent Brown’s development.
Here are Scar’s thoughts on Browns progress:
– On Brown’s development and what he has seen from the left tackle
“He’s gone up against a lot of great pass rushers like any left tackle in this league. I think he has acquitted himself pretty well, but he’s a work in progress. We are pleased with the way he has gone about his business and we are pleased with the way he has developed but like all of us we have a ways to go here.”
“I think he’s adapting to the techniques very well. Trying to do the things we ask him to do. I think he’s a very, very compliant guy in that respect. Still learning the system and I’m really grateful that he has [Joe] Thuney next to him that can help him. I don’t mean that in a negative way he’s a bright kid, but Joe has been in the system now for over two years and he understands the system, and he can say ‘hey, we gotta watch for this and watch for that’ he’s been very helpful to him I’m sure.”
“I think he’s really trying to be complaint and work the techniques. I think that’s the biggest thing, he really wants to be a good player. He wants to work at being a good player and he wants to be someone we can rely on. He wants all those things. I think that’s a great place to start and he hasn’t backed off of it and he continues to be coachable. I think he’s a great kid and he keeps trying to get better and we keep trying to get him better.”
– On Brown’s improvement as a run blocker this season
“I hope so. I think he has. I think he’s really good on the double teams with Joe [Thuney]. You know, he let a guy run inside him on an outside run the other night we don’t like that, but hopefully everything that happens you learn from good and bad.”
– On Brown switching from right to left tackle this season
“I think it’s a challenge but I also think we are eight games plus four preseason games into the process. We are so beyond that right now as far as worrying about ‘well he was a right tackle.’ He’s a left tackle. He’s been a left tackle for 12 games. We don’t say much about that.”