One thing we’ve seen over the course of three preseason games is that the Patriots still have giant question marks at the offensive tackle position heading into the 2023 regular season.
On Sunday, it looks like they took a step to try and fix that problem with the Eagles looming on their Week 1 schedule in two weeks.
According to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the New England Patriots struck a deal with the Cleveland Browns to bring in offensive tackle Tyrone Wheatley Jr on Sunday. The move comes just shy of one year ago after the former 2020 undrafted free agent worked out for the team back on August 28, 2022, before ultimately landing in Cleveland last season.
Following the injury to Reilly Reiff on Friday night, the club already found itself taking a hit to its offensive line depth. Reiff had been playing right guard and also saw some time early in camp at tackle, which provided the Patriots with some depth thanks to his versatility at both spots.
However, he’s seemed to struggle at times, which didn’t provide much confidence for a team that still needs some stability on that side of the line. Conor McDermott was also expected to be a factor, but he instead saw some snaps at left tackle and didn’t play last week against Green Bay, while also missing Friday night’s game against the Titans.
Rookie Sidy Sow has been the player seeing the majority of time at right tackle this preseason, with Sow slowly growing into his role and making fairly good progress. But it’s obvious the move to acquire Wheatley Jr. while parting with someone like Strong, who they drafted last year in the fourth round out of South Dakota State, shows there was definitely some urgency to try and bolster what was a clear area of need.
Pierre Strong is headed to Cleveland (PHOTO: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports)
Strong Trade Provides Some Clarity to the RB Spot
With Strong’s departure, that seems to be a nod to J.J. Taylor, who looks like he’s now the next back in line behind Rhamondre Stevenson and Ezekiel Elliott.
Taylor is a similar back in that he’s fairly dynamic and has shown some nice explosiveness this preseason, which would give them another player who can both carry the football and help them in the passing game.
The club also still has Kevin Harris, with Harris likely headed to back to the practice squad if he ends up as the odd man out when the team cuts down to 53.
Montgomery is listed as a receiver but he’s also contributed there, although he’s a tough time staying healthy, which remains a concern.
Strong had a big game in Week 14 last season, ripping off a 44-yard play in the third quarter that was the team’s second-longest rush of 2022 behind Stevenson’s 49-yard run against the Lions back in Week 5.
But he hasn’t been as explosive carrying the football, often times not hitting the hole quite as hard as they probably wanted to see. He was likely headed back to the practice squad, and the Patriots clearly decided making sure they had someone who may be able to help them in another area was more important.
Wheatley Provides Some Needed Depth
It’s definitely been a shaky preseason up front. Trent Brown has been banged up and has seen limited time this preseason at left tackle, with McDermott and Andrew Stueber each filling in with less-than-convincing results.
Brown is expected to be on the field in two weeks against the Eagles, but the right side of the line still appears to have some serious question marks, and Wheatley Jr. at least seems to provide a potential answer there.
The former Browns offensive lineman was among the better graded tackles by Pro Football Focus this preseason, and he’s definitely got good size, coming in at 6’6″, 320lbs.
The Boston Herald’s Andrew Callahan recently had a column pondering some potential trades ahead of the roster cutdown and had Wheatley as a potential target.
“Wheatley is stuck behind starters Jedrick Willis, Jack Conklin, fourth-round rookie Dawand Jones and Hudson, Callahan wrote. “Through two preseason games, he’s played 61 snaps at left tackle and 37 at right tackle, per Pro Football Focus. He staved off two of the best defensive lines in the league, Washington and Philadelphia, posting an elite 95.6 run-blocking grade and 97.6 pass-blocking efficiency, both metrics scored out of 100. At worst, Wheatley would provide solid, ascending depth at positions of vital need for the Patriots.”
One key concern is the fact Wheatley has yet to see any regular season action. But he played well for the Browns during camp and obviously put together enough on tape where the Patriots felt good about pulling the trigger to bring him in.
For now, Wheatley will at least give them some quality depth at a spot where they certainly need it. With a daunting 2023 schedule ahead of them in the coming weeks, how Wheatley Jr. develops will be key for a team that is going to need all the help they can get given the problems we’ve seen up front over the last few weeks.
Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: Patriots Trades Pierre Strong Jr. Tyrone Wheatley Jr.