3 personnel matchups that will decide how the Patriots start the season 

Cincinnati Bengals v New England Patriots
Cincinnati Bengals v New England Patriots / Nick Grace/GettyImages
2 of 3

Mike Onwenu vs. Leonard Williams 

Like the Patriots, the Seahawks had an injury-ravaged 2023 with 14 different players hitting IR throughout the season. Maybe Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick could start a support group?  

Like Carroll, new Seahawks head coach Mike Macdonald has a defensive background, and he’s set about building a defense that can deal with the high-powered offenses in the NFC West. The Seahawks signed five new defensive players in free agency and drafted four more, including Byron Murphy II, who some were touting as the best defensive player in the class.

So, protecting the quarterback is going to be difficult for all the Seahawks' opponents in 2024. 

Mike Onwenu signed a new contract in March, making him the fourth highest-paid offensive guard in the league. Presumably, Onwenu will settle at guard this year, as there has been an influx of right tackles during the offseason. That would make sense, but football isn’t always sensible. Either way, if he’s on the right side of the line, he’ll be able to handle Williams, who also signed a well-paid contract extension in March. 

The strongside defensive end arrived in the Pacific Northwest from New York at the end of October. In his ten games as a Seahawk, he made 41 total tackles, nine tackles for a loss, and four sacks. His 11 QB hits and the 15 hurries he recorded in those ten games are almost more important than those impressive stats. 

Slowing down Williams will be a tough task for Onwenu, who had the worst pass-blocking grade of his career in 2023. Overall, PFF rated his 2023 season 71.5. Their highest grade for a lineman last year was awarded to Frank Ragnow, who achieved an 88.8 grade.

So Onewenu wasn’t terrible, but he wasn’t the fourth best at his position either. He drew four penalty flags and allowed three sacks last season.  

Like the Patriots, the Seahawks might take a few games to hit their straps, so playing them early in the season is a bonus. Playing them at 10 am PST should help the home team, too. But if the Patriots can’t keep their quarterback clean, then Macdonald’s Seahawks will still fancy their chances of winning a scrappy defensive battle, even at breakfast time.