Mebane should have Cole's job. The decision to restructure the line around Colin Cole was stupid when made and has led to predictable results. Seattle's third down stand, in which Tapp knifed through Mike Gandy and tackled Wells in the back field, is a great example of how important Mebane was to Seattle. Mebane was on the right, beside Tapp where he belonged. Cole was on the left. Seattle was in a five man front, but Mebane was still double teamed of the snap. It was an ugly, but effective display. He hit his blockers low, getting topped and dropped, but holding ground and most importantly, freeing Tapp. Tapp took apart his single block and used his great inside move to come free to the ball carrier.
Mebane had two more nice looking pass rush moves, but neither effectively freed him. He hustled into a play off end and forced the near interception by Marcus Trufant. Mebane was good, good enough to make those around him better, but not as good as he has been at the one-tech. Cole needs to be worked down in the rotation. His presence stops Seattle from starting an optimal line.
That idea was on my mind as I notated Mebane's day: The Seattle Seahawks optimal, starting defensive line. This season is about next season and this offseason about adding talent where it's needed. Seattle traded for a three tech in his prime and turned him into a defensive end. It's not a bad idea, but with Lawrence Jackson's development, Seattle has options at end. Redding should bulk back up and move inside. He has the motor, length and repertoire of rush moves to be a very good inside pass rusher, but he isn't contributing much from the outside. Mebane should bulk up and reassume the one-tech. Cole would be his rotational partner, what he always should have been, a better Howard Green.
The key to forming this line is complementary skills. Mebane has helped free Jackson, but Jackson is not a great pass rusher. Mebane should be keeping blockers off Tapp. Redding's major weakness is getting high in his stance and subsequently pushed back. Jackons pairs nicely with him because Jackson is very stout for an end and a very good run defender. When Redding sags back, Jackson can drive his man into the hole, narrow it, and even disengage and make the tackle. Seattle might cede some stoutness in the middle, but it fields an elite corps of linebackers. Building this defense to defend the run has, predictably, done just that. When it must defend the pass, be it third and long or playing ahead, it has crumbled.
Seattle could add interior line talent through the draft. A player like Tyson Aluala is a natural complement to Mebane. It doesn't need to though. I think Redding wants to stay and if Seattle can pony the bucks, he will. He shouldn't be outrageously expensive. Concerns about health have passed. He has appeared once on the injury report and not for a knee or groin, but a shoulder. Seattle can not continue to sink over $20 million into Walter Jones, Matt Hasselbeck and Patrick Kerney. The Seahawks could retain their best talent and be players in free agency with that money.
We have months before those decisions are made. Until then, Seattle needs to stir things up and experiment. It needs to test roles and figure out its offseason needs. Seattle had the right game plan against Warner, but used the wrong personnel. It can't start Cory Redding - Brandon Mebane - Colin Cole - Patrick Kerney and expect a persistent pass rush. That line features, arguably, two to three players that are below average pass rushers for their position. And yet, by moving Redding inside and Mebane over center, the resulting Lawrence Jackson - Cory Redding - Brandon Mebane - Darryl Tapp line has three, even four above average pass rushers for their position.
Jim Mora said he was encouraged despite the loss. I would be more encouraged if Seattle did something about the loss. Seattle had zero sacks. It continues to excel against the run, but at what cost? The NFL is a passing league. The Seahawks have a great linebacker corps and three corners that can tackle. It shouldn't need to optimize its line for run stuffing, but it nearly has. It can allow long runs and win. It allowed over 200 yards to Frank Gore, but would have been in the thick of it against San Francisco if not for Matt Hasselbeck's injury. It can not allow another quarterback to sit back and pick apart its zones. Seattle shot of the gates like a contender, but without pass rush, it crumbled, allowing Kurt Warner to become just the latest quarterback to fatten up against the Seahawks zones.