Patriots ‘Odd Man Out’ Embraces Demotion, Says Coaches

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In 2020, Mike Onwenu was one of the few bright spots in a disappointing season for the New England Patriots. In 2022, he has been forced to accept a massive dip in playing time after the Patriots restructured their offensive line following the Week 1 injury to right tackle Trent Brown.

Onwenu went from the do-it-all O-lineman who spent time at tackle and guard last year, and who came into 2021 as the starting right guard to a new role as a “jumbo tight end.”

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The change has taken Onwenu from being a player on the field for 100% of the offensive snaps to playing only 20-30% of the snaps in his new role. Despite the decrease in opportunities, Onwenu, who was selected in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft, has “embraced” the new role, per coaches.

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Onwenu Embraces His New Role

If you asked Onwenu if he’d rather be starting at tackle or guard, chances are his answer would be yes, but it’s great to see him willing and able to help the team win in any situation.

“It is different,” offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo said. “I hope he recognizes the importance of it. Number one, Mike’s a professional. He comes in just like all the other guys and he’s gonna go to work and he takes it serious. I had a smile during the game that he’s obviously spending so much time at that jumbo tight end role that he was actually with Coach [Nick] Caley on the sideline for a better part of the game on Sunday just because that’s what his role was.”

Onwenu’s size and power create a powerful double strong side for the run game, and can also help to serve as a decoy in the event New England wants to run behind the other tight end on the other side of the line of scrimmage.

“He’s embraced it,” Bricillo said. “He’s trying to help us win a game and that’s what it’s about. So, he’s about it. ‘The more things you can do,’ is a mantra around here and I think Mike’s adhering to it just like any of the other guys that go from guard to center in practice to from tackle to the other tackle or whatever it may be. We’re pleased that he’s embraced it and he has. Just keep trying to figure out different things for him to do.”

We haven’t seen the Patriots throw the ball to Onwenu as an eligible receiver. He has been working with the tight ends, so there is a chance that’s a wrinkle offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels will incorporate some time soon.

Will Onwenu Get His Chance to Be a Starter Again?

I’d be willing to bet Onwenu will be penciled in as the starter at guard or tackle in 2022. We don’t know how things will shake out with Ted Karras, who replaced Onwenu as a start this year. He signed a one-year deal with the Patriots this offseason, but because he’s played so well, it seems there is a good chance a team like the New York Jets might come calling to lure him away with bigger dollars than the Patriots are willing to match.

If that happens, Onwenu could be back in starting lineup for Week 1 of the 2022 season. Also, this football, and the backup is always one play from being the starter.


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