Brown’s return begins the Patriots’ three-week time frame to active the tackle, which could present interesting questions for the resurgent offensive line.

New England Patriots offensive tackle Trent Brown. Barry Chin/Globe Staff

The Patriots have looked like a new team on offense of late after finding a winning combination on the offensive line with starting right tackle Trent Brown out of the lineup since Week 1.

Now, Brown’s return could provide even more reason for optimism, along with some extra questions.

The big offensive tackle was spotted at practice for the first time in more than a month after a calf injury knocked him out of the Patriots’ opening-week loss to the Miami Dolphins and landed him on injured reserve.

His participation level will be known later Wednesday afternoon.

Regardless of whether he practiced fully or on a limited basis, Brown’s presence now begins a three-week window in which the Patriots must decide whether or not to activate him off of injured reserve. If the team were to decline to do so, he would remain on IR for the rest of the season.

It also creates some intriguing questions for how to handle his situation, assuming he will soon be healthy enough to play.


New England signed Brown to play right tackle this season opposite Isaiah Wynn on a mostly veteran offensive line unit. But Brown’s injury and along the offensive line led to a revolving door of players at both tackle spots, with Justin Herron, Yasir Durant and Yodny Cajuste all underperforming as replacements on the right side.

Once the Patriots finally embraced moving Michael Onwenu from left guard to right tackle and inserted Ted Karras at left guard, however, the line has flourished. The offense has seen a notable drop in pressures allowed and hits on Mac Jones and has run the football assertively, including putting up a season-best 151 yards on the ground against the Panthers last Sunday.

Brown does provide a potential upgrade in that his return to right tackle could allow Onwenu to once again play guard, his more natural position, and perhaps provide the team with its best overall lineup.

Still, there’s an argument to be made that you shouldn’t go away from the “hot hand” in regards to the Patriots’ current offensive line group–or at least, don’t interrupt things too much.

If the Patriots like the way their line has played well enough, perhaps they could keep Brown around as a swing tackle as needed while offloading one of their backups.


But another option that could make sense while keeping most of the configuration intact? Playing Brown at left tackle.

He’s done it before. In fact, he was the team’s starter at left tackle for all of the 2018-19 season in which the Patriots won their most recent Super Bowl.

Wynn, meanwhile, has allowed a team-leading 18 pressures and has received a steady stream of criticism throughout the season for protection breakdowns and penalties.

Whatever they decide to do with Brown once he comes back, it seems quite likely he’ll be one of the team’s five best offensive linemen and could have a part to play in a possible playoff run.