Overview: Brandon Mebane started 16 games at right defensive tackle. He played mostly over the "1", between the left guard and center, but occasionally slid out to the more disruptive "3" between the left guard and left tackle. He had a career high 5.5 sacks and also four tackles for a loss. Still not yet recognized, Mebane is the best player on Seattle's defensive line.
What went right: Early in the season Mebane was attempting to better time his first step. He was penalized for offsides in week two and week three. I couldn't be more thrilled. He didn't record another offsides all season, though flagged for encroachment in week 15. Those ten yards lost were the growing pains in an emerging pass rusher. Mebane went on to record 13 quarterback hits or passes defensed. He had 5.5 sacks and against some of the better guards in football: Arron Sears, Justin Smiley, Reggie Wells, Logan Mankins and Alan Faneca. The most celebrated, Faneca, tends to allow a lot of sacks.
At the same time, his run stuffing ability held. He held point, backed down or split nearly every double team he faced. In addition to his four tackles for a loss, he had eight tackles for no gain and 11 tackles after a gain of one. That's 23 tackles in which the opposition netted just seven yards.
What went wrong: Despite improving his first step, Mebane still played like a fantastic one and not a true three. His best pass rush move is a bull rush and he backs down the pocket more than actually slicing in and disrupting the backfield. He's very quick, but not very side-to-side agile. He's not bad for a big man, but he's not Tommie Harris.
Outlook: Seattle wants to lock Mebane in at the three. Given Gus Bradley's roots, Mebane will play both right and left defensive tackle, but always playing over the three gap. In such a system, the three is often known as the "under tackle". It's a position he should be good at, but probably not as good as he was playing the one. Mebane is a rare one tech in a single-gap system. The kind of player Chicago and Indianapolis have sought for countless seasons. He's quick and his strangely-low center of gravity makes him a nightmare against taller guards. Mebane is almost impossible to get push on. He has a ferocious club and the kind of three yard quickness that makes him explode through a collapsing pocket and into the ball carrier. As a three, Mebane will have a longer path to the ball carrier and will no longer do what he does best: collapse the pocket. Seattle needs Mebane to be as dominant at the three as he was at the one, and if he is, he will be the engine of this defense and earn his first Pro Bowl. If he's not, Seattle's rush defense could collapse like it did in 2006, post-Marcus Tubbs.