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Patriots Daily: Six Miss Mandatory Minicamp; Onwenu Shifts

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New England Patriots guard Mike Onwenu blocks against the Washington Commanders during an NFL football game at Gillette Stadium, Sunday Nov. 5, 2023 in Foxborough, Mass. Onwenu should be the Patriots top priority in NFL free agency. (Winslow Townson/AP Images for Panini)

There’s a saying attributed to Pro Football Hall of Fame safety Brian Dawkins. “Availability is the best ability.” This might explain why I didn’t attend college graduation until about 20 years after I began. It helps explain the struggles of the 2023 New England Patriots as well.

New England might have missed the playoffs last season under the best circumstances. Finishing the year with 15 players on injured reserve certainly didn’t do them any favors though. Several players were among the most valuable members of the team, an All-Pro, a Pro Bowler, a Rookie of the Year candidate, their leading rusher, and their leading receiver. If Jerod Mayo and company are going to get things turned around for the Patriots in 2024, the availability of the players on the roster is imperative.

Six Absentees, Several Limited

The first day of mandatory minicamp for the Patriots featured a few absences. Some NFL teams are dealing with holdouts. It was not immediately clear what the reason for several absent Patriots was. Matthew Judon and Davon Godchaux, headed into the final year of their respective contracts, may have been considered the most likely to miss due to contract issues. Judon previously stated he would not be giving away any money (players who skip mandatory minicamp are subject to fines) and was a full participant. Godchaux was present and wearing a helmet, but no jersey.

Cole Strange and Kendrick Bourne were known to be non-participants in advance. Both continue to recover from season-ending injuries suffered in 2023. The timetable for Strange remains a mystery. Bourne is expected to be ready for training camp.

The other four not seen in attendance were offensive lineman Jake Andrews and linebackers Sione Takitaki, Jahlani Tavai, and Joshua Uche. Tavai won the 2023 Tom Brady Award as the New England Patriots Most Valuable Player. His attendance is worth paying attention to as he is set to hit free agency in 2025. He was a bargain last season after signing a two-year $4.4 million deal.

Four rookies were limited participants yesterday. Draft picks Javon Baker and Marcellas Dial Jr. were joined by UDFAs Kaleb Ford-Dement and Terrell Jennings.

None of this is worth reading too deeply into on June 11, but it is worth monitoring. Stay tuned.

Where on the Line is Michael Onwenu?

Yesterday’s discussion about the New England Patriots offensive line revolved around the left tackle position. Veterans Chuwuma Okorafor, Calvin Anderson, and rookie Caedan Wallace were thought to be competing for the starting job on the left side. The right tackle spot had far less mystery, with Mike Onwenu returning to the spot where he finished 2023.

Jerod Mayo solidified this belief when asked about his left tackles last week. “Obviously, we look at Big Mike (Mike Onwenu) saying he has the right side locked down.” Yesterday the tune seemed to change, however.

Left guard Cole Strange remains out indefinitely. New England moved Sidy Sow over from right guard to fill Strange’s role. Onwenu was shifted to right guard for part of yesterday’s practice. This allowed Wallace to play right tackle on that unit. It appears even without Strange, there is enough depth on the Patriots’ roster to stop Onwenu from needing to kick inside. In addition to Sow, New England has Nick Leverett, Layden Robinson, and Atonio Mafi among those who could fight for a starting spot opposite Sow at guard. Despite having the “right side locked down” it now appears Onwenu might be a possibility at right guard instead of right tackle.

“The best players will play,” Mayo said of his offensive line. “That’s how I think about it. It’s all competition and we’re going to try to put the best five out there.” Stay tuned.

Also in today’s Patriots Daily:

Daily Patriots Fun Fact

Logan Mankins holds the record for longest holdout during the Bill Belichick Era with the New England Patriots. Mankins sat out the first seven games of the 2010 season, unhappy about his contract. Makins started the final nine games of 2010 after agreeing to a new contract. He earned first-team All-Pro honors that season. In doing so Mankins broke two records.

Mankins became the Patriots player to earn All-Pro honors while playing the fewest games.  He also became the only NFL player to play fewer than 10 games in a non-strike season and be an All-Pro. Logan Mankins continues to hold both distinctions to this day.

Post of the Day

A Logan Makins highlight clip courtesy of Boston Sports Info:

New England Patriots

Patriots Football Now – The New England Patriots have four quarterbacks on their 90-man offseason roster. Veteran Jacoby Brissett sits atop the depth chart for now. He returned to New England this season after being traded following the 2016 season. Whether he starts or is just a mentor for Drake Maye, he should play a valuable role in 2024. Taking a closer look at Jacoby Brissett.

Patriots Football Now – ESPN Football Power Index model gives the New England Patriots nearly no chance for success in 2024. Their chances to reach the Super Bowl round off to 0.0%. It would excite Patriots Nation to shock the world, but if the FPI projection is correct the Patriots would get the No. 1 pick in the 2025 NFL Draft. Would that be so bad?

NFL News

Steelers Now – Pittsburgh entered the offseason with 2022 first-round pick Kenny Pickett expected to be the team’s starting quarterback in 2024. Pickett plays for the Eagles now. Russell Wilson signed with the Steelers after being released by the Broncos. Pittsburgh traded a Day 3 draft pick to Chicago for Justin Fields. Now Steelers OC Arthur Smith addresses potential Steelers QB competition.

NFL.com – The EA Sports Madden franchise has had a number of different NFL players on the cover over the past two decades. The list includes Patriots legends Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. The 2025 Madden cover athlete was announced. For the first time since 2013, the Madden cover athlete is a running back: Christian McCaffrey of the San Francisco 49ers.

CBS Sports – Playing in the National Football League is not for the faint of heart. Every play can result in something career or life-altering. There is the obvious physical toll these players endure, but there is a mental battle too. Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow discussed injuries and their toll on mental health.

Boston Bruins

Boston Hockey Now – The National Hockey League is increasing its salary cap to $88 million this summer. It is an increase of $4.5 million. This is seemingly good news for all NHL teams for financial flexibility. Find out how the salary cap change affects the Boston Bruins.

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Award-winning blogger, Dan's work has also been featured on Fox Sports, Boston Metro, Barstool Sports, MLB.com, and many other outlets.

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