After some initial struggles along their offensive line, the New England Patriots appear to have found a lineup that works. Starting with their Week 7 win over the New York Jets, the team relied on a group of left tackle Isaiah Wynn, left guard Ted Karras, center David Andrews, right guard Shaq Mason and right tackle Trent Brown.
With this lineup protecting rookie quarterback Mac Jones and paving the way in the running game, New England won six straight games to move from 2-4 to 8-4. The O-line grouping itself was the one that started the season as well, with one exception: Karras originally opened the year as a backup, with Michael Onwenu instead starting at left guard.
However, a stint on the Covid-19 reserve list and subsequent move to right tackle in place of an injured Trent Brown allowed Karras to enter the equation. The 28-year-old has not looked back since, while New England’s offensive line played its best football of the year.
Onwenu, meanwhile, was relegated to rotational duty. He played a handful of snaps in place of Brown immediately following his return from injured reserve, and also saw the field as an in-line tackle on occasion. His days as a starter, however, appeared to be over.
Then came last Sunday’s game against the Tennessee Titans. With the Patriots’ offensive line struggling to generate a push up front, the coaching staff decided to make a change at left guard again: Karras was sent to the bench, with Onwenu taking over in the late first half. The move was not a permanent one, though, and Karras returned after halftime.
Still, it showed that Karras’ hold on the spot was not as firm as it initially appeared to be. This all begs the question: Who should the team trust to fill the position?
Its fans do not have a clear preference, it seems. According to SB Nation’s latest Reacts survey, 55 percent of them want Karras to keep the starting role. Meanwhile, 45 percent prefer Onwenu to take over.
There are arguments to be made for both.
Karras has proven itself a solid contributor who works well with left tackle Isaiah Wynn and center David Andrews. Onwenu, meanwhile, is the higher-upside option who still projects as a long-term starter along the New England O-line. Having two solid players to fill one position is a luxury problem to have, but one the Patriots still need to find an answer two with a likely playoff trip just one month away.
A change happening ahead of this week’s game against the Buffalo Bills does not seem likely, though. Karras still appears to be the top option even after an up-and-down performance in Week 12.
With the bye coming up following the contest in Buffalo, however, New England might decide to reshuffle its offensive line once again.
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