Benched Patriots Lineman Voted Team’s Most Underrated Player

Getty Mike Onwenu

Mike Onwenu had a stellar rookie season for the New England Patriots in 2020. However, after playing so well in his first year, New England sent him to the bench in favor of veteran guard Ted Karras and tackle Trent Brown.

Pro Football Focus’ Sam Monson called out this decision as he recognized Onwenu as the Patriots’ most underrated player.

“Onwenu seems to be underrated even by the Patriots, who couldn’t find a starting spot for him last season despite his excellent play across multiple positions since being drafted,” Monson wrote. “Onwenu has played left guard and right tackle well for the Patriots and has back-to-back seasons with a PFF grade of at least 84.3. His run blocking is outstanding, while his pass protection is more than adequate. He has already vastly exceeded expectations as a sixth-round pick and could develop into an elite offensive lineman.”

While Onwenu, 24, was stuck as the sixth offensive lineman in 2021, it seems he’s headed back to the starting lineup in 2022. If the season began today, the Patriots would likely start Isaiah Wynn at left tackle, Onwenu at left guard, David Andrews at center, rookie Cole Strange at right guard and Brown at right tackle. If that unit stays mostly healthy, which is always a major if in the NFL–and an even bigger wildcard when Brown is involved (he has missed 25 games over the past three seasons) Onwenu could dig his heels in at one position for an extended period.

That continuity and playing time could lead to an even higher level of play in 2022 than Onwenu produced as a rookie in 2020. Because of Strange, 23, and Onwenu’s youth, New England is in a position to build the kind of offensive line that could make quarterback Mac Jones’ life much easier in the coming years.

At some point, they may need to find a pair of young offensive lineman whose upside and durability will match.

Other Patriots News: New England Cuts Liam Shanahan

The Patriots brought in eight undrafted free agents after the 2022 NFL Draft. They have already dismissed one of them. Liam Shanahan, a guard from LSU, who is a Massachusetts native, failed a physical early on in rookie minicamp which led to his release, per SB Nation’s Bernd Buchmasser.

Shanahan figured to have a tough time making the 53-man roster as it was, but the injury was apparently too much for him to overcome at this time. It’s possible Shanahan could resurface with the Patriots or another team once he has more time to rehab his injury.

Could the USFL be a possibility? Stay tuned.

Other Patriots News: Rookie Cornerback Has Star Potential Off the Field

In other Patriots rookie news, fans may become very acquainted with Marcus Jones. While many eyes will be on Strange, considering he was the team’s first-round selection, but there is a chance Jones could make the splashiest impact.

The 5-foot-8 playmaker is a cornerback primarily, but he also projects to take the role of kick and punt returner with the Patriots. In college, Jones had 9 return TDs and he has drawn rave reviews from scouts when it comes to his ability as a return man.

Beyond his gridiron talents, Jones is also a rapper who has released an album. If that wasn’t enough for potential secondary streams of income, Jones did a bit of modeling on his Instagram account.

If Jones does his job on the football field, he figures to have some opportunities to up his level of exposure in his other interests.

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