Defensive tackle is paradoxical position for the Seahawks. It is both a major strength and a major weakness at at the same time.
Brandon Mebane might be the most overrated player on the Seahawk’s roster. He isn’t that good against the pass, averaging just 2 sacks per season over his 5 year career, including zero this past season. He also not exceptional against the run. While he played extremely well early in the season, he was repeated pushed back off the line down the stretch, and was responsible for much the decline of the run defense over the last few games. Don’t get me wrong, Mebane is still an above average player, but he is not the dominating player that most fans seem to think he is.
Alan Branch is sort of the opposite in terms of fan opinion. Branch is seen as sort of this average player who’s “ok,” but the team should be looking to find an upgrade. Instead, Branch is one of the most dominating defensive tackles in the entire NFL against the run. Pro Football Focus has him as the 2nd best DT in that regard. The problem is that Branch isn’t as strong when it comes to rushing the passer. While he did record 3 sacks in 2011, he was rarely effective at getting pressure on opposing passers.
The only other DT on the active roster at the end of the season was Clinton McDonald. McDonald is a young and talented backup, but not someone who you’d want getting too much playing time. While he can be useful in getting guys like Branch and Mebane a breather ever now and then, you would want him starting if there was an injury.
The Seahawks also used mammoth DE Red Bryant on the inside on some passing downs. Bryant isn’t much of a pass rusher, but this was done to keep Alan Brach fresh without hurting the run defense. This was also done because of the lack of depth at DT on the roster, and the need to keep the starters from getting too tired.
Another DE, Anthony Hargrove, was also used at DT on passing down was rather effective. While Hargrove is a serious liability against the run when at DT, he was a surprising effective pass rusher. Pro-Football Focus had him in the top 10 in the NFL for DTs in terms of QB pressures per play. While he only had 3 sacks, that was due to a lack of playing time. I would have loved to see him get more playing time on passing downs.
Prediction: Branch and Mebane return as starters, but the Seahawks invest an early pick on a 3rd DT for the rotation who can also provide some inside pass rush. McDonald returns but sees less playing time.