Newsflash: Offenses don't usually perform well against the Seattle Seahawks defense. Yes, because of the All-Pros patrolling the secondary. Yes, because of the relentless linebackers. And yes, because the defensive line is continually bringing pressure upon the quarterback du jour.
But increasingly, opponents are having extra trouble solving the Rubin's Cube. That thing can be tough.
Blue Side: One more run devourer
Ahtyba Rubin's run-stopping prowess is the cube's honorary blue side, because so much of Seattle's success this year has come from run-stopping. As you'll have probably heard by now, the Hawks finished the year as the No. 1 run defense as measured by yards.
Despite losing six games, they never gave up 100 yards to a running back in any game this season.
Oh, and they were third in YPC against.
Oh, and the were first, by a wide margin, in big rushing plays allowed.
Oh, and Football Outsiders tells us that the Hawks DL led the NFL in Adjusted Line Yards on runs up the middle, which accounts for roughly half of all running plays.
All part of a big reason they were third in yards per play differential.
How about we see Rubin in action, helping to contain the league's leading rusher in a scoreless playoff game. There are four cool things to notice about the following play, from Sunday's first quarter:
Cool thing one is Rubin's ability to quickly disengage from the block. 63 gives him a shove, but the big D-lineman shrugs it off and diagnoses the pitch to the left quickly.
Cool thing two is he's ready to pursue AP to the sideline. Watch Rubin's feet on the next video cycle. He's moving to his right and would gladly continue on that path, except for cool thing three...
Which is Kam Chancellor arriving in run support. Kam started in the box, and he provides outside contain by racing the helpless tight end to the sideline. Rubin and Peterson both notice; as Rubin changes direction, the Viking is simultaneously forced to cut back inside, where cool thing four happens.
And that's Rubin finishing the play. How many times have we seen Peterson slither through a tackle and fall forward for two yards when there were none to be gained? AP almost pulls it off here, when he ducks under Michael Bennett, then lunges toward the line of scrimmage -- only to be met there by a barrel-chested Seahawk who stands him up instead. Technically a loss of two on a first-down red zone play.
The Vikings settled for three points on the drive. That ended up mattering, right?
Green Side: He's cheap, relatively.
Rubin cost the Hawks $2.6 million this year. That's less than half of Mebane's salary. It was a one-year deal. If the Hawks want to bring him back, and his market doesn't take off for whatever reason, it'll be doable.
McDaniel and Kevin Williams each made just over $2 million a season ago. You can't always find a $600,000 spare Clinton McDonald lying around. Sometimes you spend money on a run-stuffer who's worth it, and with Mebane's contract ending this offseason, there stands to be money to spend on the DL. It's only a matter of who it should be spent on.
Red Side: Something of a ballHawk
Quoting the coach: "He's got a motor about chasing the football that I love for a big man," Pete Carroll said. "You just don't see big men get up and get on that horse as often as he does."
Oh, and Rubin has hands. How many times this season have we seen a seemingly sentient fumble squirt out of a Seahawk's waiting hands? Not on Sunday. This was the split second after Kam kindly relieved AP of his ball-carrying duties:
Thanks for the delicate hands at a critical moment, Ahtyba.
And how many times have we seen what looked like a sure interception get batted away from one Hawk by well-meaning teammate? Not this time, not against these pesky point-droppin' Steelers:
If Rubin's magic mitts come up with one more sleek takeaway between now and the end of Super Bowl 50, that will be just fine, thanks.
Orange Side: He's athletic overall
Carroll saw this coming. On October 1, we heard him say of Rubin, "He's gonna knock the heck out of some guys and knock the ball loose a couple times because that effort is there."
Part of Rubin's nose for the ball comes from his superior athleticism. There are 330 pounds on his 6'2" frame, but take a look at his morphology in the attached videos and again this coming Sunday. He's top-heavy, and not carrying a lot of weight in the midsection. In an early FG podcast, celebrated NFL analyst/biologist Danny Kelly described Rubin as "barrel-chested."
Besides, take a look at the history of some recent Seahawk D-linemen.
Branch was 6'6", 350.
McDonald was 6'2", 300.
McDaniel was 6'7", 305.
So with Rubin, the Hawks found a guy with a lower center of gravity like McDonald's, but with a playing weight closer to Branch's. They found a guy who posted a broad jump of 8'10" at the combine while finishing third in his draft class with 35 bench-press reps. No surprise you'll find him chasing screen passes downfield 20 yards downfield like he did against the Browns on December 20.
Yellow side: He's statistically productive
Rubin's going to get credit for a sack here on a play that is really a group effort. Fourth quarter, Vikings are driving to retake the lead, it's 2nd and 9.
Once the Vikings' offensive line fails at multiple attack points, the play becomes a race to see who can touch Teddy first. Rubin gets there and earns the "cheap" sack. But that's not the important thing here -- instead, watch his move at the line of scrimmage. Rubin stuttersteps to the inside to keep 83 out of the play, the explodes around 63, who barely touches the Seahawk on his way to mayhem.
So it's nice to see him rewarded on the playoff stage for his efforts, which were statistically good in the regular season. While Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril both played close to 80 percent of defensive snaps, the next group of four D-linemen played between 25 and 50 percent of snaps. They put up these numbers:
|Player||Def. Snaps||Tackles+Assists||Sacks||QB Hurries||Positive Play Frequency (T+A+S+QBH/Snaps)|
|Rubin||476||36||2||8||Every 10.3 snaps|
|Mebane||489||24||1.5||4||Every 16.6 snaps|
|Clark||333||16||3||10||Every 11.5 snaps|
|Hill||311||24||0||11||Every 8.9 snaps|
(snap counts courtesy of footballoutsiders.com)
Side note: I'm surprised to see Hill with that much statistical firepower after what seemed like a quiet season from him. But don't let that take away from the main point: Rubin is filling up the stat sheet.
The White Side: Rubin's future in Seattle is therefore bright
He could very, very easily be more than a rental lineman. At age 29, Rubin is technically younger than Bennett (already 30), Avril (soon to be 30) and Mebane (who turns 31 today, coincidentally).
The Hawks saw enough from the new guy early on that they released McDaniel in camp.
"This is a very physical guy at the point of attack, he moves right up into that role of the big guy who can stop the line scrimmage" Carroll said of Rubin on Day 3 of training camp. "He's an unusual player in pursuit for a big man. He chases the ball like crazy."
Again, that quote is from before the season. Indeed. It didn't take PCJS too long to know what they had -- a versatile, athletic dude . A younger Mebane, a thicker McDonald, a more productive McDaniel. All three are or were valuable pieces of a championship-caliber team. Now it's Ahtyba's turn.
Bonus Candy: Steelers won't mind if we Rubin it in a little
Just in case you wanted to watch our dude intercept Ben Roethlisberger one more time, but in four angles at once, we brought you this video:
The conclusion I'm navigating toward here is that like Brandon Mebane before him, Ahtyba Rubin is one of the most underrated Seahawks, and it's time the fanbase showed him some love.