The Patriots only start 2-2 every few years or so. As a matter of fact, to find the last time they did so, you have to go all the way back in the TARDIS to that bygone era of the 2018 championship team. The last time before that was the Super Bowl team of 2017. So it's a rare occurrence. And when you hit October and that particular .500 Halley's Comet is in the sky, it's important to try to find whatever bright sides you can.
This time around it's more important than ever to find those gold nuggets in the manure. New England leads the league in opt outs.Tom Brady is off in Tampa leading the league in passes of 20+ yards and deep passing yards. Their most important player on defense joined their most important offensive player with Covid. The Bills are 4-0 and two games up in the division. Our pets heads are falling off. We need Reasons to be Cheerful (Part 3), so let's mine some.
You can, for instance, look to the play of the Patriots defense, who held the Chiefs to just 19 points and 323 total yards, the lowest total of the Patrick Mahomes era. Damien Harris saw his first significant playing time and rushed for 100 yards.
Chase Winovich continues to develop into a well rounded, reliable, three down edge player. There's plenty to feel good about. But nothing is filling my cold, tiny, artery-hardened heart like the remarkable development of rookie offensive lineman Michael Onwenu.
For the second week in a row, the former Michigan Wolverine played every snap. In Week 3 against
Oakland Las Vegas, he played left guard, subbing in for Joe Thuney who moved to center. In Kansas City, the deck was shuffled further with Shaq Mason hurt, so he slid over to right guard, between C James Ferentz and his fellow sixth round rookie Justin Herron at right tackle. And all he did was improve, across the board in every category. According to Pro Football Focus' grading, with 100 being the unobtainable maximum:
Week 3 vs LV: Run blocking: 83.6, Pass blocking: 73.9, Overall: 86.7
Week 4 vs KC: Run blocking: 87.3, Pass blocking: 88.8, Overall: 91.3
Onwenu played 42 passing snaps against KC, gave up no sacks, QB hits, hurries or pressures of any kind.
On the season, including his first two games where he rotated in at right tackle and some third tight end work in Jumbo packages, PFF has him at 92.2. How does that rank? Well among rookies, it not only makes him No. 1 in the league through four games:
But historically good is not a bad way to put it:
In fact, he's not only the highest graded rookie on their site, he's the second highest rated offensive lineman at any position, period. Behind only Cleveland guard Wyatt Teller. And here are the rankings of all offensive players, regardless of position:
1. Aaron Rodgers, 96.3
2. Russell Wilson, 95.0
3. Teller, 94.1
4. Onwenu, 92.2
But metrics and grades aside, watch these 350 lbs of Wolverine throw a block, then slide over to pick up an A-gap blitz:
Or set up a tackler on this screen:
The insane thing is that, while it doesn't seem at all possible, he's still improving. And were he at any position other than interior offensive line, he'd be one of the most talked about players in pro football. Certainly the most talked about rookie. And I plan on talking about him until that happens.
Because Michael Onwenu is, without a doubt, the best sixth round draft pick out of Michigan this franchise has ever had.