Monday, June 27, 2022

Benched Patriots lineman was voted the team’s most underrated player

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Mike Onwenu had an outstanding rookie season for the New England Patriots in 2020. However, after playing so well in his freshman year, New England benched him in favor of veteran guard Ted Karras and fought Trent Brown.

Pro Football Focus’ Sam Monson underscored that decision when he ranked Onwenu as the Patriots’ most underrated player.

“Onwenu appears to be underestimated even by the Patriots, who failed to find him a starting spot last season despite his excellent play at several positions since his draft,” Monson wrote. “Onwenu has played well at left defense and right tackle for the Patriots, and has had consecutive seasons with a PFF rating of at least 84.3. His run blocking is outstanding while his pass protection is more than adequate. He’s already far exceeded expectations as a sixth-round pick and could develop into an elite offensive lineman.”

While the 24-year-old Onwenu was stuck as the sixth offensive lineman in 2021, he looks set to return to the starting lineup in 2022. If the season started 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 healthy for the most part, which is always a key factor in the NFL — and an even bigger wildcard when Brown is involved (he’s missed 25 games in the last three seasons), Onwenu could lock himself in one position for quite some time Period.

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

At some point, they may need to find a pair of young offensive linemen whose advantages and durability match.

The Patriots picked eight undrafted free agents in the 2022 NFL draft. They have already fired one. Liam Shanahan, an LSU security guard who hails from Massachusetts, failed an early physical exam at the rookie minicamp, which led to his release, according to SB Nation’s Bernd Buchmasser.

Shanahan reckoned he would have a hard time creating the 53-man squad like this, but the injury seemed too heavy for him at the time. It’s possible Shanahan will reappear with the Patriots or another team once he has more time to rehab from his injury.

Could the USFL be a possibility? Stay tuned.

In other Patriots rookie news, fans can get to know Marcus Jones very well. While many eyes will be on Strange considering he was picked in the team’s first round, there’s a chance Jones will make the biggest impression.

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

Aside from his Gridiron talents, Jones is also a rapper who has released one album. If that wasn’t enough for potential secondary income streams, Jones has been modeling for a bit on his Instagram account.

As Jones gets his job done on the football field, he feels he has a few opportunities to increase his exposure to his other interests.

Follow the Heavy on Patriots Facebook page for the latest Patriots-related breaking news, rumours, content and more!

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