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Patriots Unfiltered Tue Aug 03 | 11:55 AM - 02:00 PM

Patriots Bailey, Onwenu recognized by NFL.com

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There are lists you might look forward to making up – Christmas, Honey-Do, Bucket, to name a few – and others, if you're an NFL player, that you just look forward to making, as in being named to them... for whatever that's worth.

Case in point, someone who writes for NFL.com just compiled his thoughts on the best players in the league who are under the age of 25. Why 25? Probably because it represents young players who've begun making a name for themselves while still in their rookie contracts. And while this distinction doesn't come with any take-home hardware or a splashy red-carpet shindig, we bring it to your attention because a pair of Patriots appear on this list, and with good reason.

The Patriots have been giving punter Jake Bailey's strong right leg quite a workout over the past couple of seasons, not just in his primary role, but also as the team's designated kickoff specialist. And he's excelled at both. Last season, Bailey received meaningful leaguewide honors as a Pro Bowler and First Team All-Pro.

"Bailey finished second in punts dropped inside the 20 with 31," the author cites as rationale for his choice of the third-year Patriot, "trailing Seattle's Michael Dickson by one while also punting six fewer times. Perhaps most impressively, Bailey allowed just 71 return yards for the entire season (sixth fewest). The quick math tells us returners averaged less than a yard and a half gained per Bailey punt. That's elite production from the Patriots' punter."

Quite. Meanwhile, versatile offensive lineman Mike Onwenu proved a more-than-capable rookie last season, wherever New England chose to play him, as the writer accurately points out.

"A sixth-round pick in 2020, Onwenu blossomed into a dependable blocker as a rookie. He was primarily a right tackle in 2020, but he's listed as a guard here because that's where he's likely to play in 2021 following a reunion between New England and tackle Trent Brown. Onwenu is a prime example of what effective scouting can do for a team. In this instance, the Patriots unearthed a late-round gem who projects to be a rock-solid blocker for years to come."

New England is one of seven teams with two players on the list. No club has more than that, and 14 teams didn't have any players listed at all. Make of those facts what you will. But there's no denying that Bailey and Onwenu have bright futures with New England, and we here at Gillette Stadium aren't the only ones taking notice.

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