While writing up the provisional look at the 90-man roster, I noticed they had Alan Branch listed as a DT. Assuming it was just an error, I slotted Alan Branch into our 5-Tech DE position, which he seems best suited for size-and-skill-wise. Looks like I was looking at it wrong, as now Pete Carroll has commented that he's moving Alan Branch to the 3-Tech/undertackle and Brandon Mebane to the 1-Tech/overtackle. That's certainly a bit of a surprise. It seemed more and more unlikely that Colin Cole would be ready to play on week 1, but as we signed Junior Siavii I figured he would start over Cole, leaving Bryant and Mebane in the 5-Tech DE and undertackle spots.
Instead, it looks like our FO is going to get a little more creative. On Brandon Mebane at the 1-Tech, this is something that has been discussed extensively recently on Field Gulls. As I noted back in the signing story, Mebane is a better at run containment and collapsing the pocket than he is a quick gap-shooting pass rusher, which makes him less than an ideal fit for Carroll's big-body heavy 4-3 Under. I also theorized (in comments) we could see more shifting gap assignments to occasionally give Mebane two-gap responsibilities on certain downs.
I did not expect this. Mostly, I didn't think Mebane was big enough to suit Pete Carroll's mental image of 1-Tech on our line. Once again, I underestimated the flexibility of our front office. They're not as hard up on their own systems as people imagine, and they're proving it now by shifting Mebane back to the position he entered the NFL with, and excelled at in 2008 when he tallied 5.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.
Alan Branch will kick inside to the 3-tech. Now there's more of an eyebrow raiser. A lot of us dig the idea of using Mebane as a 1-tech, but Alan Branch entered the league as a 3-4 NT, before being shifted to 3-4 DE, and joined us as an apparently ideal fit for the 5-tech (and he'll still back up the spot, behind Red Bryant). When talking about him on twitter, Doug Farrar called him more explosive than quick, which doesn't sound ideal for us. Branch did play the 3-Tech with the Cardinals, though it doesn't sound like he did it frequently, and the Cards didn't shift to 4-3 that often anyway. It's interesting that the FO makes these changes even before Alan Branch hits the field, it was obviously a part of the plan and probably something they talked to Mebane about when re-signing him. Branch's contract makes more sense as a starter too.
I still haven't done my own scouting on Branch so I won't comment too much, but it wouldn't surprise me if this isn't the end of our plans. I noted our 1-Tech depth in the roster story, but now our depth is Brandon Mebane, Junior Siavii and Colin Cole, who might be PUPed but will compete with Mebane for the 1-Tech spot when he comes back. He's on a hefty contract for a backup so he might also be looking at a restructuring or injury settlement release.
With more depth available at 1-Tech, we might now want to look at adding to the 3-Tech, with Alan Branch being far from a sure thing and likely to kick outside to the 5 with some frequency, and being backed up by only Kentwan Balmer and UDFA Ladi Ajiboye. If this formation isn't just an experiment and they want to have Mebane at the 1 as a permanent fixture, they might want to look at adding another 3-tech, perhaps someone like Amobi Okoye. That would be the final piece to add to the puzzle for a very flexible rotation, with different guys that can play multiple spots.