Everyone sick of discussing roster moves? I know I am. Everyone ready to talk football? Good lord do I know I am.
Long time readers know I am crazy about Brandon Mebane. Here's a story about Brandon Mebane.
Mebane was a three-tech in college and a good one. He broke in with Seattle by filling in for an overtaking and making expendable Chuck Darby. Darby was a one-tech, but a Tampa 2 style one-tech. He was quick off the line and had active hands and did not anchor very well but did provide pass rush from a position teams rarely wring pass rush from. Mebane was Darby but better in almost every conceivable way. As an added bonus, the bulked-up Mebane proved pretty damn hard to move and so he became a quality anchor too.
What Mebane does is pretty simple: He is quick, strong enough and hard enough to block to force consistent, almost persistent double teams. Unlike most defensive tackles in the NFL, he survives and can even split a double team. Simple but rare and a huge boon for his surrounding teammates. A pass rush is typically four on five. Mebane accounts for two.
Jim Mora moved Mebane back to three-tech. This was described as his "natural position" because he had played it in college. This is where the story gets interesting. Mebane was a three-tech at California and despite his great play at the position, scouts thought he was too slow, too stiff and not explosive enough to play three tech in the pros. And there is some truth to that. Mebane is not Kevin Williams or Jay Ratliff. And as it turned out, Mebane had his worst season as a pro under Mora.
Part of the problem was Mebane's pairing. He was teamed with Cory Redding on the left and Redding was, in many ways, another Brandon Mebane. It was never really clear if Mebane or Redding was supposed to be the playmaker, but neither really turned out to be one. Redding didn't free Mebane and though Mebane did free Redding, Redding was a tackle playing end.
Part of the problem was that Mebane showed the same ability to explode into the backfield and disrupt runs and pressure passes, but as scouts anticipated, he wasn't really what you want in space. Quarterbacks could anticipate and outlet or roll out. Running backs could evade him. All those pre-draft concerns about his closing speed and agility proved correct, kind of.
Pete Carroll has quietly fixed the Mebane dilemma. Mebane is no longer a three tech, necessarily, though he will start most snaps over the three gap. Mebane is now an under tackle and that is a subtle but potentially major change. Whereas before, Mebane was freeing Redding and though Redding was good, he wasn't doing much with the single block and space given, Mebane is now freeing a light, quick, explosive pass rusher.
Mora's front four broke down in two places. As mentioned, neither Mebane nor Redding could take advantage of the single blocks the other provided, but also, and perhaps more importantly, putting Cole at one-tech and typically on the right, meant Seattle's right defensive end was fighting through multiple blockers on most snaps. Patrick Kerney and Darryl Tapp were facing double teams and long edges and chip blocks and all sort of other garbage you do not want your best pass rusher to face.
Carroll has paired Seattle's best defensive lineman and the lineman far and away best able to force a double team with the team's best pass rusher. Check out Chris Clemons schooling Michael Roos. Check out Chris Clemons schooling Bryant McKinnie. What unites both plays? Mebane drawing a double team and isolating the tackle against a quicker, more agile pass rusher. And which game was Clemons most absent? Week three, when Seattle started Craig Terrill at under tackle.
It might seem minor. It certainly has been overlooked. But starting Mebane on the weak side and allowing him to create favorable matchups for the Seahawks Leos will pay dividends all season, and every season for as long as Mebane is a Seahawk.