You don't get to three straight Super Bowls without stability along your offensive line.
Joe Thuney, David Andrews and Shaq Mason have started the Super Bowl three years running for the Patriots along the interior, while Marcus Cannon has manned the right tackle spot in two of the last three — each of New England's wins, for what it's worth.
As the Patriots begin their quest for a fourth straight trip to the game's grandest of stages, they'll do so with that quartet lining up in the trenches.
On the outside at left tackle is another story completely.
For context on New England's current situation at left tackle, you need to realize just how stable the Patriots have been at the position for the better part of three decades. It predates the rock that's been Tom Brady at quarterback and Bill Belichick at coach; it even predates the kicking foundation of Adam Vinatieri and Stephen Gostkowski.
Bruce Armstrong played along the left side of the line for the Patriots from 1987-2000, retiring just before the glory years but right ahead of the team drafting Matt Light in 2001. Light retired after the 2011 season, one year after New England had drafted Nate Solder.
Solder departed after the 2017 season, ultimately replaced by Trent Brown. We asked similar questions last August about Brown's ability to step in for Solder, but the reality is that there was never any doubt who would protect Brady's blindside. Brown lined up with the starters from Day 1 of training camp and before you knew it, was the highest-paid offensive tackle in NFL history following his free agency bonanza with the Oakland Raiders.
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One obvious candidate to continue the good times on the blind side is Isaiah Wynn, New England's top draft choice in 2018 who's yet to play an NFL snap due to an Achilles injury suffered last preseason. While he's been present at practice for the Patriots all training camp long, his next rep during 11-on-11 drills this summer will be the first.
"I'm just following instructions, that's it," Wynn said last week when asked about being anxious and wanting to do more.
"There's a reason why everything happens in camp, yeah," Belichick said of Wynn's status last week.
In Wynn's place has been a ragtag group of options, most notably Dan Skipper and Cedrick Lang. Thuney has also slid over from guard during certain drills, while rookie Yondy Cajuste remains on the non-football injury list.
Skipper (6-foot-9, 325 pounds) and Lang (6-foot-7, 300 pounds) both have the size requisite of a left tackle, but, like Wynn, have virtually no NFL experience. Skipper has appeared in one regular season game over two seasons, Lang none over three.
At least one of Skipper and Lang now feels like a certainty to at least make New England's 53-man roster, something which felt highly unlikely at the outset of training camp. Skipper seems to have the upper hand at the moment, having lined up at left tackle for the majority of the team's contact drills.
Wynn remains the best option long-term, even at his listed height of 6-foot-2. But could he also become insurance for Thuney, a free agent at season's end? Wynn played guard while in school at Georgia as well.
The Patriots have the benefit of time when it comes to the latter scenario, but it's just over a month before they'll need to send someone out to line up at left tackle on Sept. 8 vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Wynn's status, as well as the performances of Skipper and Lang in New England's preseason games, are directly tied to the well-being of a 42-year-old quarterback set to become a free agent at season's end.