The New England Patriots offensive line turned in an excellent performance during Sunday's Week 3 win over the Las Vegas Raiders, and a rookie guard played a huge part in that success.
Michael Onwenu started at left guard against the Raiders because Joe Thuney, who normally starts at that position, was forced to start at center because David Andrews was ruled out with a hand injury.
Onwenu played 100 percent of the Patriots' offensive snaps and performed at a high level. In fact, Onwenu was the highest graded guard by Pro Football Focus in Week 3 entering Monday night's matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens.
The Patriots selected Onwenu out of Michigan in the sixth round (182nd overall) of the 2020 NFL Draft. He was one of three offensive linemen drafted by the Patriots in 2020.
Onwenu started all 13 games for the Wolverines at right guard last season, and judging by Sunday's matchup, he looks just as comfortable on the left side of the line. Being able to play multiple positions is one of the most valuable attributes the Patriots look for in players, and Onwenu has shown an impressive ability to do that during his brief pro career.
"Mike’s shown a lot of versatility," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said at his Monday press conference. "He played right guard at Michigan, and that’s pretty much the only spot he played. Here he’s worked both guards and worked at right tackle, and right tackle was a new position for him. Left guard, even though guard is guard, footwork is all different over there where he played yesterday for Joe [Thuney]. It’s kind of like playing left handed when you’ve been playing right handed your whole life.
"I think he’s done a really good job. He’s a smart kid, he’s got a lot of physical playing strength, he’s a good athlete, he’s got good football smarts and awareness and he’s done a good job for us, playing right tackle and then yesterday at guard he handled some good situations. He learned a lot, and he’s still got a long way to go but did a lot of good things."
Onwenu and the Patriots offensive line paved the way for the team to rush for a season-high 250 yards, along with two rushing touchdowns, in the 36-20 win over the Raiders on Sunday.
The offensive line will need to play at the same level or better in Week 4 if the Patriots are going to earn an upset victory against the Kansas City Chiefs on the road.