Even though no official titles have been announced by the team just yet, all signs point toward the New England Patriots offensive line being coached by two men this season. Matt Patricia and Billy Yates will team up to help replace departed O-line coach Carmen Bricillo.
Patricia will probably play a prominent role within the offensive staff as a whole, but he already confirmed having spent time “with the guys up front” earlier this offseason. Yates, meanwhile, served as Bricillo’s assistant last season and appears destined to receive the official title of offensive line coach in 2022.
Regardless of the eventual constellation, both have left a positive impression on one of the players they are working with. Michael Onwenu, after all, appreciates the hard coaching he and his teammates have so far received from both Patricia and Yates.
“I don’t think anything specifically stands out,” he said on Tuesday when asked about Patricia. “I mean, he coaches us like every other coach. Hard coaching, we all take it and we all buy in.”
Onwenu also went on to praise Patricia’s communication skills.
“He’s good as a communicator,” the third-year lineman said. “Speaks well, voices his opinions. It’s a mutual conversation in both ways.”
A sixth-round by the Patriots in the 2020 NFL Draft, Onwenu spent his first two seasons in New England moving between the right tackle and left guard positions as well as the starting lineup and the bench. Now, however, he is the frontrunner to take over the vacant right guard gig previously held by long-time starter Shaq Mason.
With Mason traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the door is open for Onwenu to fill his sizable shoes. Whether or not he will be able to do that remains to be seen, but the 24-year-old will be supported along the way by both Patricia and Yates.
While neither has necessarily extensive experience coaching the offensive line, both have some history at the position.
Patricia, a former head coach with the Detroit Lions and long-time Patriots defensive coordinator, initially served as offensive assistant and assistant offensive line coach after he joined the club in 2004. He transitioned to the defensive side of the ball in 2006, and spent the next 12 years there before leaving for Detroit in 2018; he returned to New England last season as a senior football advisor.
Yates has been an assistant O-line coach since 2020, first with the Lions and later with the Patriots. While he is relatively new to coaching offensive linemen, he knows them inside out: he played the position himself for eight NFL seasons — including five with the Patriots between 2004 and 2008.
Onwenu already has more starting experience than Yates despite only being in the league for two years, but he spoke highly of what he brings to the offensive line room.
“Billy has been a good coach,” he said after the Patriots’ first mandatory minicamp practice. “He’s been vocal. Same with Matt, whenever he’s in the room. Coaching us the same way, coaching us hard, keeping us right to our morals — coming out here and working hard every day, whether it’s Phase 2 or whatever day it is. Billy always stresses that.”
The Patriots offensive line saw some turnover during Tuesday’s practice. Despite the projected starting five all being present, they lined up in an unusual formation: starting tackles Isaiah Wynn and Trent Brown switched sides, with Wynn moving to the right tackle spot and Brown playing on the left end.
Between those two was business as usual, though. Rookie Cole Strange and veteran David Andrews manned the left guard and center spots, with Onwenu at right guard.