Despite not having played the position during his college career at Michigan, Michael Onwenu saw considerable action at the offensive tackle position in his first year with the New England Patriots. After starting his rookie campaign in a rotation with Jermaine Eluemunor, Onwenu took over as New England’s starting right tackle by Week 5 and never looked back.
When all was said and done, he had played 616 snaps at the position. For comparison, he saw a combined 297 snaps at the two guard spots.
Onwenu adapting quickly to this new role and playing some impressive football at right tackle gave the Patriots coaching staff the confidence to keep him there despite his lack of previous experience. However, it seems likely that his move from guard to tackle will remain a one-season affair: Onwenu is a prime candidate to change positions again during his 2021 sophomore campaign.
After all, the Patriots lost their long-time starting left guard, Joe Thuney, in March. Onwenu appears to be the frontrunner to fill that spot.
At the moment, though, the 23-year-old is not worried about any of this.
“Everyone is taught the same thing,” Onwenu said during a media conference call on Tuesday. “Essentially, in the job as a whole, it’s next man up. So anyone and everyone has to be ready for the next man up. I think that’s just the way the job goes.”
With Thuney taking his talents to Kansas City as a free agent, moving Onwenu back to guard seems like a reasonable decision for the Patriots to make. As far as he himself is concerned, though, his approach will remain unchanged regardless of role.
Onwenu noted that the fundamentals would be the same at both tackle and guard, and that he would not prefer one over the other.
“I do not have a preference,” Onwenu said. “Wherever I’m needed, that’s where I’m at.”
Thuney’s departure was not the only move impacting the Patriots’ offensive line this offseason. New England also re-acquired offensive tackle Trent Brown via trade and brought back versatile interior backup Ted Karras after his one-year stint with the Miami Dolphins.
Accordingly, the Patriots will have to shuffle their pieces around to get the best possible starting-five onto the field. Based on his strong rookie performance, Onwenu is expected to be a part of this group. As such, he would join fellow projected starters Isaiah Wynn (left tackle), David Andrews (center), Shaq Mason (right guard), and Trent Brown (right tackle).
Right now, however, his focus lies not on any projected roles or depth charts, but rather on building a strong foundation through offseason work.
“I just approach the offseason doing the basics, the general rules that will lead you and carry you along during the season,” Onwenu said. “Whatever, position-wise, as long as I’m doing the technique that my coaches are teaching, anywhere I am I’ll be pretty good using the same techniques.”