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Double Secret Pro Lineman? Michael Onwenu is Patriots ‘Best Kept Secret’

Versatile offensive lineman Michael Onwenu is poised to take on the starting right guard role for the New England Patriots in 2022.

Despite a decrease in playing time in 2021, New England Patriots offensive lineman Michael Onwenu appears poised for a resurgence in what will be his third season with the team.

Chargers LB Joey Bosa (97) and Patriots OL Michael Onwenu (71)
Patriots OL Michael Onwenu (71) and Isaiah Wynn (76)
Michael Onwenu, the New England Patriots' 5th Round Pick

In fact, Pro Football Focus (PFF) recently ranked the former Wolverine as the most underrated player on the Patriots roster.

You may now count Bleacher Report among those throwing accolades Onwenu’s way. The site recently named him the ‘Best Kept Secret’ on the Patriots roster heading into 2022. 

Even the best offensive linemen fly under the radar because they rarely score touchdowns, so an upstart player at the position can easily go unnoticed (to the public) until the team has to decide whether to re-sign him.

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Through two seasons, Mike Onwenu has played both guard positions and right tackle. As a rookie, he started in all 16 games but slid back into a reserve role for half of his appearances last season. In 2021, Onwenu only committed three penalties and gave up two sacks through 647 snaps, per Pro Football Focus.

For the upcoming season, Onwenu could move back into a full-time starting spot at guard following the departure of Ted Karras to the Cincinnati Bengals via free agency and Shaq Mason, whom the New England Patriots traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

With rookie first-rounder Cole Strange likely to start at one interior position, Onwenu has a chance to showcase his skill set as one of the better pass protectors among the league's young guards.

Onwenu was selected 182nd overall by the Patriots in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. During his time at the University of Michigan, he primarily lined up at right guard. However, his versatility earned him a starting spot at right tackle during his rookie season. While his playing time decreased a bit during his second season, Onwenu was still a key factor along the team’s offensive line at left guard, as well as aligning as a jumbo tight end in select packages.

Patriots OL Michael Onwenu
Patriots OL Ted Karras
Patriots - Cole Strange

With the departure of former starting left guard Ted Karras, as well as the trade of guard Shaq Mason, the Michigan product is now highly expected to return to his natural spot on the offensive line in the upcoming season. Initially, he was thought to be the primary choice to replace Karras at left guard. However, having played right guard at Michigan, he will likely slot into that position for 2022 — especially after New England selected offensive lineman Cole Strange 29th overall in the 2022 NFL Draft.