Patriots rookie finds starting role after offseason shake-up

FOXBORO — The Patriots might have found their starting right guard of the future in the fourth round of the 2023 NFL Draft.

Rookie Sidy Sow earned the start at right guard in place of Mike Onwenu, who moved to right tackle, in Sunday’s win over the Bills and thrived. With an 86.4 mark, Sow earned the highest single-game PFF grade for a rookie offensive lineman this season.

It would have been difficult to predict Sow getting starting reps at right guard as recently as this summer. He was a left tackle as a freshman in college and played guard in his remaining years at Eastern Michigan, but the 6-foot-5, 318-pound offensive lineman was drafted to play tackle in New England. The Patriots had Sow playing right tackle — even earning first-team reps — throughout training camp and the preseason before they got Calvin Anderson back from the non-football illness list and acquired Vederian Lowe and Tyrone Wheatley Jr. in trades.

When Onwenu and Cole Strange weren’t ready to start the season, Sow started at right guard and fellow rookie Atonio Mafi, a fifth-round pick who was the top reserve guard all season, started at left guard in Week 1.

Sow has stuck at guard ever since, and Onwenu thrived in his return to right tackle. So, why change a good thing?

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“The move from tackle to guard I think was more comfortable for him than guard to tackle, kind of why we did it that way,” head coach Bill Belichick said. “Start him at tackle, figured we could move him to guard, versus taking a guard and trying to move him out to tackle.

“He’s another guy that has a really good demeanor. Works hard, tough, just tries to do his best at everything you ask him to do, and that’s a good thing. Takes coaching well, obviously is inexperienced, he’s learned a lot. He’s certainly not arrived, or there yet, but making progress every day, works hard, learns from his mistakes. Big kid – strong, tough – but moves pretty well.”

Sow thinks all of the moving around has helped him early in his NFL career.

“It’s been fun because it’s been giving me a lot of different experiences facing different athletes and especially learning the offense,” Sow said. “Because it allowed me to not just learn one position like just learning left guard or right guard. It allowed me to understand what we do as a whole line and every single concept. I think that kind of accelerated my learning process of the offense. I enjoyed it.”

The Quebec native said it took him a couple of reps to readjust to moving from tackle to guard, but “the muscle memory of doing it for so long in college kind of helped me a little bit.”

He doesn’t know why the Patriots moved him back from tackle to guard. Why?

“I didn’t really ask,” he said. “So, I play whatever they want me to play. I don’t really ask questions because I don’t really mind. It’s not something that important to know why I’m doing something. I just want to be there and do it.”

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