FOXBORO, Mass. — It’s no secret that the Patriots offensive line has been a major issue since the start of training camp. Undermanned and ineffective, New England’s O-line must get its house in order before the start of the regular season.

One potential cure: The return of Mike Onwenu.

Arguably the Patriots’ best offensive lineman, Onwenu missed all of spring practices and hasn’t practiced all summer after undergoing offseason ankle surgery. The stud right guard has been spotted doing strength/conditioning work on the lower field and standing on the sideline during some practices, but he remains on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.

That trend continued Monday when Onwenu, who can be activated at any time, missed yet another session. Before the start of practice, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was asked for an update on Onwenu and replied with one of his classic non-answers.

Story continues below advertisement

“Day-to-day,” he said. “Take it day-to-day. When he’s ready, we’ll put him out there. If he’s not ready, then he’ll stay on PUP, same as all of the other players that are in that same classification. When they’re ready, they’re ready.”

Onwenu isn’t the only New England O-lineman dealing with an injury. Second-year guard Cole Strange has been sidelined for the last two weeks with a left leg issue, and veteran tackle Calvin Anderson — a key offseason signing — remains mysteriously absent while on the non-football illness (NFI) list. Tackle Trent Brown’s participation has been limited as he deals with a reportedly “minor” injury, and guard Bill Murray has missed roughly a week due to an undisclosed injury. Other linemen, including center David Andrews, also have dealt with injury issues of varying severity.

    What do you think?  Leave a comment.

If you’re looking for a source of optimism, you might be able to find it in the latest notes column from ESPN’s Mike Reiss.

“Those close to the situation don’t expect the front-line personnel shortage to linger,” Reiss wrote, “with starters Trent Brown (undisclosed), Cole Strange (undisclosed left leg, knee injury) and David Andrews (undisclosed) getting closer to joining veteran Riley Reiff on the field, leaving starting right guard Mike Onwenu (still on the physically unable to perform list after offseason surgery on one of his ankles) as the biggest remaining question. Free agent addition Calvin Anderson is also working his way back on the non-football illness list.”

Story continues below advertisement

That paragraph was published Sunday, hours before Strange kinda-sorta returned to practice. The 2022 first-round pick was in uniform but didn’t participate, a scenario that repeated itself Monday. Regardless, Strange appears to be trending in the right direction. The same can be said for Brown, whose participation has ticked up over the last few practices.

But Onwenu remains a mystery. And, at this point, it might be fair to wonder if he’ll return in enough time to adequately prepare for Week 1.

The Patriots have no shortage of depth behind Onwenu, but the dropoff is steep. Murray and fellow veteran James Ferentz could get a shot, as could second-year pro Chasen Hines and rookies Atonio Mafi, Jake Andrews and Sidy Sow. Reiff, a tackle for much of his career, appeared at right guard in each of the last two practices.

New England will travel to Green Bay this week for a pair of joint practices and a preseason matchup with the Packers. We’ll see if Onwenu’s situation takes a turn for the positive.

Story continues below advertisement

Featured image via Eric Canha/USA TODAY Sports Images