Bright spots haven’t come in abundance for the New England Patriots this season, but there have been a few.
The Patriots have seen a handful of young players flash promising potential. J.C. Jackson remains on a fast track to becoming a No. 1 cornerback, while Damien Harris is starting to prove he’s capable of handling a feature back role. But arguably New England’s most impressive young player to date has been an unheralded rookie.
Mike Onwenu is in the midst of a stellar first season in the NFL. Onwenu, a sixth-round pick out of Michigan, has bounced around the Patriots’ offensive line and has more than held his own in each role. The 22-year-old’s play to date has stood out enough that he was identified by ESPN as the Patriots’ “reason for optimism” amid the team’s ongoing struggles.
“The 6-foot-3, 350-pound Onwenu has started at three different positions on the offensive line, in addition to playing jumbo tight end, and accounted well for himself,” Mike Reiss wrote. “He looks like a find after entering last week’s action ranked sixth in the NFL in ESPN’s pass block win rate for guards. There’s just something about the Patriots and sixth-round picks from Michigan that seems to be a fit.”
There’s a good chance Onwenu will become significantly more valuable to the Patriots next season. Longtime O-line stalwarts David Andrews and Joe Thuney both are impending free agents and could be in line for lucrative deals outside of Foxboro.
It remains to be seen what Onwenu’s role with the Patriots will be moving forward. But if New England’s first seven games of the campaign are any indication, he’ll be able to handle anything thrown his way.