New England Patriots: The future is bright for OL Michael Onwenu

The New England Patriots had a memorable 2020 season for many reasons, some good and some bad. While taking a closer look at one of the main developments to come out of last season, the emergence of rookie offensive lineman Michael Onwenu is at the top of the list.

The New England Patriots hit the jackpot when they drafted versatile offensive lineman Michael Onwenu in the sixth-round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

While at Michigan, Onwenu was primarily used as an offensive guard. But he often found time along the defensive line. The versatility of Onwenu allowed the Patriots to utilize him in other positions that they were not expecting upon drafting him 182nd overall in the sixth-round of last year’s NFL Draft.

It’s worth mentioning that due to starting right tackle Marcus Cannon opted out of the 2020 season on account of the Coronavirus pandemic. Leaving the Patriots to maneuver their depth chart to accommodate the offensive line in Cannon’s absence. In doing so, the Pats planned to use Jermaine Eluemunor as their starting right tackle, who took over the position throughout the entirety of training camp.

However, during the first game of the season against the Miami Dolphins, it was Eluemunor and Onwenu who shared snaps on a rotation at right tackle. Onwenu played impeccably and went on to start the next 16 games of the season for the New England Patriots. Displaying his versatility, Onwenu also logged one start at both the left and right guard positions throughout the season.

New England’s rookie lineman went on to record starts at three different positions and earn PFF grades of 79 or higher at each position: left guard (83.5), right guard (79.7), right tackle (79.2). Once Onwenu solidified himself as a starter, he played 92 percent of the offensive snaps. He went on to make Pro Football Focus’ All-Rookie Team. 

Onwenu is great in pass protection and in the run game. Which the Patriots are planning to get behind quite heavily this season. In fact, PFF ranked him as the eighth-best tackle in the entire NFL, not too shabby for a sixth-round rookie. Onwenu was asked to grade his rookie season, which he was hard on himself in his response.

“I probably had a C. I mean, it was a lot I messed up on. I’m trying to take in everything and trying to learn everything.” – Michael Onwenu, via Phil Perry of NBC Sports Boston

Due to Onwenu’s versatility, there’s a great possibility that he ends up being the starting guard this season. The Patriots traded for offensive tackle Trent Brown. And are expecting a full season from Isaiah Wynn. Onwenu will have to slide over to his more natural guard position. But if you ask him, he’d say he’s confident enough to play both positions. 

“I do not have a preference. Wherever I’m needed, that’s where I’m at. I just approached the offseason doing the basics. Doing the general rules that will lead you and carry you along in a season whatever position-wise. As long as I’m doing the technique that my coaches are teaching, anywhere that I am I will be pretty good using the same techniques.”- Michael Onwenu, via Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal

Since Onwenu had a standout rookie performance last season, the expectations for him are high entering his second season. If everything goes as planned, Onwenu should have a long and successful career with the New England Patriots.

– Justin Trombino (@Trombino20 on Twitter)

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