New England Patriots: This player is the team’s biggest X factor vs Jets

Mike Onwenu #71 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Mike Onwenu #71 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

It could be argued the New England Patriots’ biggest X-factor this week vs. the New York Jets (or any other team for that matter) is their quarterback, as it is for every other team in the league.

But, I’m not going there. Instead, let’s ask the question; what makes any NFL quarterback successful?

Right, the other pieces on the offense, and one in particular is the offensive line. The offensive line is the key. They are the “enablers” or X-factors for everything else that happens.

It’s simple as that. And, in this case, the single most important X-factor for the New England Patriots against the New York Jets is a particular offensive lineman.

A New England Patriots offensive lineman is the X-factor, the key to the game

How can one offensive lineman be the key to the game for the New England Patriots against the Jets? Because the offensive line controls the game for every team.

And for New England Patriots this Sunday, one player on that line will be the key, the biggest X-factor, Michael Onwenu.

So why Michael Onwenu? In his case, it’s a case of his talent and of his positioning by head coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

The Patriots lost their best offensive lineman, Trent Brown to injury in the first quarter last Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. Lousy luck, indeed.

He’s outstanding. Trent Brown is also a big favorite in this space. His loss was a huge one and he will be missed if he ends up having to miss time.

New England Patriots Michael Onwenu is the X-factor against the Jets

Bill Belichick fumbled as much as Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson did by not doing what should have been obvious against Miami.

That was to move Onwenu from his left guard position (he had replaced Joe Thuney who left in free agency) to Trent Brown’s right tackle position immediately after Brown got injured.

A guard to play tackle? Indeed. Onwenu stepped into the right tackle position last season early on after never having played that position much at all. He was terrific.

He was the team’s best draftee, in the sixth round no less. Then Trent Brown was miraculously acquired by the Patriots from the Las Vegas Raiders for peanuts, a great deal to play right tackle.

This allowed Belichick to move him to left guard to replace Thuney. Fine. But Brown could be out for this upcoming contest. So the best play was/is to move Onwenu to right tackle.

He keeps the quality up at that position without weakening the left guard spot. That’s possible because the Patriots brought in a super-sub who’s actually a starter quality interior lineman.

That would be Ted Karras. Karras started every game for Miami last season where he was on vacation for a year after having left the Patriots in free agency. The Dolphins were excellent.

His signing was a masterstroke for just this reason. Both Brown and Isaiah Wynn tend to miss games with injuries. So what better scenario than to have a ready-made guard and tackle available.

The problem was, Belichick and McDaniels mishandled their own strategy tactically by keeping Onwenu at guard and not bringing Karras into the starting five on Sunday. The result was abysmal.

Backup tackle Justin Herron is barely an NFL quality backup, nevermind a player who should ever get any first-team reps except in a dire emergency.

He flopped. His holding penalty nullified a 33-yard pass from Mac Jones to Kendrick Bourne. That hurt. Both Jones and Bourne must have been thrilled at that. So the penalty was costly.

The question is whether Belichick and Co. will move Michael Onwenu over against the Jets or continue again with the possibility of a sieve-like right tackle messing up the entire offense and more?

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That’s the question of the hour. Belichick’s deployment of Michael Onwenu is the reason the big guard/tackle is the X-factor against the Jets.

This decision by Bill Belichick may very well determine the outcome of this game. The right decision could put the New England Patriots right back in the hunt for the AFC East title.