It’s going to be a big Win With Wynn Wednesday this week.
The Patriots activated left tackle Isaiah Wynn — the 2018 first-round draft pick who likes to hashtag the above phrase with positive messages on his social media accounts — from injured reserve Tuesday, increasing the likelihood they will have him back in the lineup Sunday against the Cowboys.
As a corresponding move to create the roster spot for Wynn, the Patriots put rookie receiver/punt returner Gunner Olszewski on IR.
Wynn, who missed last season after tearing an Achilles’ tendon during the preseason, was placed on injured reserve this year after he got turf toe in Week 2.
This was the first week he was eligible to be activated.
The 22-year-old has the potential to upgrade an offensive line that has been struggling. Tom Brady has been sacked 16 times this season, five shy of his total from all of last season, and the run game is 30th in the league, averaging 3.3 yards per attempt.
Marshall Newhouse has struggled protecting Brady’s blind side, and the quarterback was feeling pressure on many of his dropbacks against the Eagles Sunday.
If Wynn stays healthy, he should help with all of that. According to Pro Football Focus, Wynn gave up just one hit on 45 pass-blocking snaps played this season before he got injured.
Olszewski, who has been dealing with ankle and hamstring injuries and hasn’t played in the last two games, is the converted cornerback who came out of nowhere (OK, Division 2 Bemidji State) and earned a roster spot during training camp.
He was essentially the last player to make the team, since the Patriots actually told him they were cutting him before changing their minds at the last second while finalizing the 53-man roster.
He has been a contributor on special teams, ranking fifth in the NFL in punt-return average at 9.0 yards.
Olszewski has been a fan favorite because of his back story and engaging personality. He wears his grandfather’s alligator-skin cowboy boots in the locker room and is routinely willing to hurl his 190-pound body over and through oncoming coverage players while returning punts.
He had not carved out a role on offense, though, playing only in situations like Week 6 against the Giants when injuries depleted the other options at receiver. Olszewski played 50 snaps that game.
The silver lining for Olszewski is that, by going on injured reserve, he will get to stay with the team and continue his development. With N’Keal Harry having just come back and the Patriots needing another roster spot, his could have been in jeopardy regardless.
Without Olszewski, the Patriots need to find a punt returner. Mohamed Sanu did the honors Sunday in Philadelphia, but twisted his ankle on one return.
Julian Edelman is always an option, but it seems the Patriots prefer to keep him away from the potential dangers of that role this season. Harry and Jakobi Meyers took reps there during training camp and could also be in the mix.
It’s startling to remember how, early last month, the Patriots felt they didn’t have room for Ben Watson.
More startling to think of how, despite his on-again, off-again relationship with the team this year, he’s looking like one of the more comfortable players on offense they have.
“He’s a guy that knows how to play in our system and in our offensive scheme,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said Tuesday. “We have a lot of trust and faith in him. Practices hard, competes well every day, and really is a good influence on all our guys in terms of knowing how to prepare and getting ready each week.”
Watson has played four games since he was re-signed (he served a four-game suspension at the beginning of the season, then was released instead of being activated, with Bill Belichick citing a lack of roster space) and has played the majority of offensive snaps in all of them.
He has caught 73.3 percent of his targets and had his best game so far Sunday in Philadelphia, catching three passes on four targets for 54 yards.
He made one of the biggest plays of the game when the Patriots were down, 10-0, snagging an excellent Brady throw over the middle on third and 10 to keep what would ultimately be a scoring drive going.
It was the kind of decisive, well-placed throw Patriots fans are used to seeing from Brady and wondering where they have been this season, and it’s easy to see how the intended target might have influenced the quarterback’s decision to let it rip.
Watson also has helped out in the blocking game, chipping in with varied success while the Patriots offensive line tries to keep its head above water. He is, at least, willing.
“Ben’s a smart guy,” Belichick said Tuesday. “He works hard, he has a lot of experience, and he’s been able to be productive for us as well and in a higher volume of snaps.”
Of course, 50 yards and change from the only tight end on the roster making an impact right now is not enough to power an offense. With Brady noticeably upset by the offense, which scored only 17 points Sunday, McDaniels was asked how he responded to the quarterback’s frustration.
“I can’t comment exactly on his frame of mind, I just know that he’s a competitive guy,” McDaniels said. “We have a lot of competitive guys on our team and we all want to do our best. We have one goal when we go out there on the field every time we have the ball on offense, and that’s to score.
“When you don’t do as well as you’d like to do, you can understand that they’re — personally or collectively as a unit — you’re frustrated with your output, but at the same time, understanding in the big picture our No. 1 goal and the most important thing for all of us is to contribute to wins.”
Room to improve
McDaniels evaluated Harry’s first start like this: “He made a few catches for us and helped us move the ball. He tried to block in the running game effectively and did a decent job there, and at the same time there’s definitely things that we’ve been able to see through the film that we’ll improve on and he’ll work towards being better at as we go forward.” Patriots coaches and players have been rather muted in their comments about Harry, who played sparingly, mostly on run plays, early in the game against the Eagles, then took on a bigger role once Phillip Dorsett was ruled out with a head injury. Harry caught three passes on four targets for 18 yards.
A ratings winner
The Patriots’ 17-10 victory over the Eagles on CBS was also a big ratings win for Channel 4. The game earned a 38.2 household rating and a 64 share in the 4:25 p.m. window, making it the second-highest-rated Patriots game of the season. Only the win over the Browns Oct. 27 drew higher ratings (42.3/67) in the Boston market. Nationally, the 4:25 p.m. window on CBS, which featured Patriots-Eagles in most markets, was the highest-rated telecast on any network this season (14.0 average/29 share).