FOXBOROUGH — The NFL is loaded with giants. Offensive tackles, generally speaking, are the biggest of the bigs.
The dudes charged with taking on the league’s elite athletic pass rushers usually have been shopping at the Big & Tall store since eighth grade.
Consider that in recent seasons the Patriots routinely have had mountain men standing 6 feet 8 inches — including Trent Brown, Nate Solder, and Sebastian Vollmer — manning the edges and keeping quarterbacks upright.
Enter Isaiah Wynn.
New England’s left tackle is on the smaller side, comparatively speaking, at 6-2, 310 pounds, more in line with the size of the prototypical guard.
Wynn, however, is proving that bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better as he is off to a terrific start through two games.
The third-year player and first-round pick has had Cam Newton’s back, allowing zero sacks, and according to Pro Football Focus, zero QB pressures in 72 pass-blocking snaps.
Wynn acknowledged this week that he overhauled his body in the offseason, simultaneously slimming down while adding muscle to be better prepared for the rigors of the position.
“I just needed to, especially me playing at my position, me kind of being the smaller offensive lineman compared to other left tackles in the league, I needed that,” Wynn said. “So, that helped. It just helped being able to be more solid, being able to sit down during bull rushes in the pass game and be more physical in the run game.”
Wynn said there are two areas he concentrates on to make up for his comparative lack of size.
“I just rely on my technique, that’s all I can do. Just getting stronger,” he said. “There’s always room to get better technique-wise. There’s always room for improvement on the strength side. Relying on my strength and technique, that’s really all I can do.”
Wynn said he’s really been enjoying playing with Newton, and the element of surprise the quarterback brings helps keep him sharp.
“I can’t really speak for the rest of the offensive line, but for myself, I think it’s fun just because you never know what’s going to happen,” Wynn said of Newton’s run-pass option prowess. “You can be in the middle of pass protection and it turns into a scramble, so now you’re drive blocking.
"So it’s one of those things that’s fun for me just because it keeps me on my toes.”
Wynn, who missed his rookie season with an Achilles' tendon injury and then spent half of last season on injured reserve with a toe ailment, said he finally felt fully healthy this offseason.
It has translated into a fast start.
“Isaiah is a good player, does a lot of things well,” said coach Bill Belichick. “He’s a very athletic player with very good playing strength and leverage. He’s got good feet and he’s a smart kid and he really takes well to coaching and making adjustments and those kinds of things. So, it’s good to have him out there and hopefully he can continue in his development.”
‘“I just rely on my technique, that’s all I can do. Just getting stronger. ... There’s always room to get better technique-wise. There’s always room for improvement on the strength side. Relying on my strength and technique, that’s really all I can do.”’
The coach pointed to Wynn’s play with left guard Joe Thuney and how the two have developed chemistry.
“It’s been awesome,” said Wynn. "Joe’s a great guy and he’s also smart and he’s very reliable. He’s one of the most reliable players we have on this team. So, just being able to continue to play next to him and learn from him has been good for me because he got me better, you know, just to be able to talk to him and talk through stuff with him and also work with him.”
Andrews is on hand
David Andrews returned to practice Thursday, though the center had a black wrap around his right hand/thumb, and he was officially listed as a “did not participate.” Andrews’s presence at the sweats-and-shells session was a positive sign, as his communication skills along the offensive line are vital to setting protections. Newton called the center/quarterback exchange “the most important transaction” in the game and said he hopes Andrews can play Sunday against the Raiders because he’s a “warrior.” Second-year man Hjalte Froholdt and veteran practice squadder James Ferentz would step in if Andrews is out.
James White (family) and rookie tight end Jake Burt were not spotted at practice, though Burt was not on the participation report. Those listed as limited were receivers Julian Edelman (knee) and N’Keal Harry (ankle); linebackers Josh Uche (ankle) and Brandon Copeland (knee); safety Kyle Dugger (ankle); and defensive tackle Adam Butler (shoulder) … The Raiders had several big contributors, including left tackle Brown (calf), running back Josh Jacobs (hip), and tight end Darren Waller (knee), miss their second straight practice … Mohamed Sanu, who was cut before training camp ended, said he was “grateful” for his Patriots tenure during comments transcribed by 49ers Webzone. “It just wasn’t a good fit. Things happen the way they happen,” said Sanu, who signed with the 49ers last week. “I’m focused on what I’ve got here in San Fran and I’m excited to be a part of this team and culture. This culture is more my style. So, I’m excited for it. I’m grateful for my time in New England. It taught me a lot. It just didn’t jell out how I wanted.”