Michael Onewnu checked in from OTAs on Tuesday, enjoying his first real offseason and looking to build on what was a breakout performance in 2020, mostly at right tackle. For a sixth-round pick who was only supposed to be a guard, Onwenu surpassed all expectations, starting 16 games while showing brute strength and a finisher's blocking mentality to go with surprising athleticism for such a hulking figure.
With Trent Brown's return, the Patriots now have better starting depth at tackle, making the natural guard from Michigan an easy candidate to slide back inside to replace the departed Joe Thuney. As expected, Onwenu wasn't ready to reveal where's he's playing just yet.
"Wherever I'm needed, that's where I'm at," said Onwenu via a Zoom conference with reporters, adding that he focused on the basics this offseason which would prepare him for either spot. "The fundamentals really carry over, but I did prep for both positions. It's only right."
Onwenu excelled despite a truncated 2020 offseason, a huge task for last year's rookie class as they were subjected to an entirely virtual introduction to the NFL. Throughout the season coaches commented how difficult a transition it was for the rookies.
Now, as the world begins to open up post-COVID-19, Onwenu has embraced having some semblance of a real offseason with the chance to get to know his teammates off the field.
"I really think the best thing I did this offseason was probably just hanging out with the guys," said Onwenu. "Last year we were all virtual and I was at home... really just getting to be around these guys outside of football. Being able to do things and experiencing things just as regular people is definitely one of those things that I appreciate."
2020 provided a valuable learning experience for Onwenu and now he'll look to build on it. Whether it's at guard or tackle, his outlook is bright in New England.
"Coming into the building I didn't really know what to expect," said Onwenu, "whereas the second year, I have a year under my belt, I know what to expect, I know how to work, I know how to practice. So going forward, I know how to set good groundwork."