What the Patriots needed from Jermaine Eluemunor last season he couldn’t provide, mostly because of what Eluemunor failed to provide for himself.
The edge he’d pocketed and sharpened at every prior stop of his football life; taking it from his native England, where he first became obsessed with a foreign game, to an American high school, then junior college to the SEC and finally the 2017 NFL draft, where he became a fifth-round round pick of the Ravens.
By most standards, Eluemunor reached the peak of his obsession in that moment and the three subsequent regular-season roster cuts he survived. He felt it, too. But that fool’s-gold feeling kept him from reaching the peak of his profession, and so he languished in his third training camp in Baltimore, with all of three career starts under his belt.
Just over a year ago, the Ravens shipped Eluemunor and his seemingly lost potential north in a swap of draft picks. In New England, Eluemunor failed to discover it and provide serviceable play as a backup interior linemen. By his own admission, he was too comfortable; all the way through being inactive for the Pats’ one and only playoff game.
But since then, something changed. Eluemunor describes it as a recommitment to the drive that made him the player he was on track to become. Rediscovering his edge.
“Coming into this season, I was like, ‘I’m not gonna be comfortable. Whatever happens, happens,’” he told reporters Thursday/ “But I’m going to make sure that I work as hard as I can and give everything I got and empty tank out after every single practice.”
Whatever happened, Patriots coaches have seen it. Eluemunor is on track to start Week 1 after a strong series of training camp practices. His teammates have noticed a change behind closed doors, too.
“He’s grown a lot. Just from constantly asking questions, trying to get a better idea of things. He works hard each and every day,” said starting right guard Shaq Mason. “It was good to see a guy come in and be that inquisitive, and he’s going to learn.”
Eluemunor and Mason knew each other before the trade that made them teammates. Now, they’re even closer — literally. Last year, Eluemunor backed Mason up at guard, and now he’s slated to stand next to him at right tackle.
The opportunity to start motivates Eluemunor by itself, but doing so next to Mason means more.
“I feel like I have to hold myself accountable to be able to play the same level for him and keep up with him,” Eluemunor said. “So there’s no slack, and there’s no letdown in a sense, you know, like — I don’t want to let him down. I don’t know want to let no one else down.”
First, Eluemunor is ensuring he doesn’t let himself down. He isn’t taking his new depth chart position of strength for granted. He’s on the edge now — just as he would have it.
“If that is me, at right tackle in Week 1, I’m not going to be comfortable. I’m not going to be like, ‘it’s mine,’ because I can lose it the next week if I don’t perform up to the Patriots’ standards,” Eluemunor said. “(I’ll be) having a mentality of don’t get comfortable and keep working, give everything you’ve got and never quit.”