The New England Patriots offense played its best game of the season on Sunday versus the Buffalo Bills, and the offensive line in had a big role in that. With Cole Strange and Michael Onwenu returning from injury to start at left guard and right tackle, respectively, the group as a whole looked significantly better than the previous games.
While the two veterans played a critical role, so did Sidy Sow. A fourth-round draft pick earlier this year, Sow played all 60 snaps at the right guard position — allowing Onwenu to kick out to tackle in the first place.
It might not have been perfect, but his performance was an encouraging sign for an offensive line still trying to find its core five. At the moment, at least, Sow appears to be part of them.
“He did some nice things. He still has a ways to go,” said offensive line coach Adrian Klemm earlier this week. “He’s a young guy, but his foot is to the fire, creating a sense of urgency, and he’s trying to get better each and every day. He’s doing what he’s supposed to do, and there are things we need to correct and clean up, but there were some positives that we could build upon.”
Sow started his college career at Eastern Michigan at left tackle but moved inside entering his sophomore campaign. He went on to start 44 games at left guard over the next four seasons.
After the Patriots drafted him 117th overall, however, he initially moved back out again. All 99 of his preseason snaps came at right tackle, and he appeared to be in the conversation for the starting role.
Sow did indeed start the season opener, but he lined up at right guard rather than tackle — replacing Onwenu, who was still rehabbing from offseason ankle surgery.
“He played guard most of his college career. Played a little tackle as a freshman, played a few snaps at tackle in the all-star game, played tackle here. So, the move from tackle to guard was more comfortable for him than guard to tackle,” said head coach Bill Belichick. “It’s kind of why we did it that way. Started at tackle, figured we’d move him to guard versus taking a guard and trying to move him out to tackle.”
After starting Week 1, Sow did not take the field the next four weeks. He missed two games with a concussion, and spent Weeks 4 and 5 on the bench as a reserve option. Week 6 brought another change, however: his ankle forced Onwenu to effectively sit out the loss in Las Vegas — he was active but played zero snaps — and opened the door for the youngster to reenter the lineup at right guard.
The team apparently liked what it saw, and during the following week made the decision to keep Sow at right guard. Onwenu, who had returned, bumped out to right tackle to replace a struggling Vederian Lowe.
The results justified the shuffling: the Patriots’ O-line looked much more cohesive in pass protection and run blocking than it had before.
Sow played a big part in that.
“Works hard, tough, just tries to do his best everything you ask him to do,” Belichick said about the 25-year-old. “Takes coaching well. Obviously is inexperienced; he’s learned a lot, he’s certainly not arrived or there yet. But making progress ever day, works hard, learns from his mistakes. Big kid that’s strong, tough and moves pretty well.”
His position coach echoed that assessment, while adding that “he has a great attitude, keeps his head down, just grinds every single day.”
For Klemm, that will be the recipe to follow.
“As long as he does that, everything will work itself out as we proceed through the season.”