Brandon Mebane Dialing Up the Pressure

Sep 8, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers center Ryan Kalil (67) prepares to hike the ball as Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Brandon Mebane (92) defends in the fourth quarter. The Seahawks defeated the Panthers 12-7 at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

When people talk about the success of the Seahawks defense this year names like Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Michael Bennett are the ones that are tossed around the most often. All of these players are playing at a Pro Bowl level, but there are a lot of very important cogs in this machine that don’t get much attention. One of those cogs is Brandon Mebane.

At age 28 Brandon Mebane is the old man of this defense and the only player who played under Mike Holmgren. He has always been a fairly solid, durable (he has missed five of a possible 108 games in his career) and consistent starter. However, perception surrounding Mebane has changed over the years.

Mebane was drafted as a run-stuffing defensive tackle in the third round in 2007. Early on Seahawks fans heard reports that Mebane was showing more quickness and pass rushing ability than expected, but that didn’t really manifest itself in his rookie season where he finished with only two sacks. The next year Mebane would break out with 5.5 sacks and begin to look like an all around star. However, since 2008 Mebane has a total of 5.5 sacks in five seasons. His role has changed back to what was initially expected. He is now primarily a run stopper.

The problem with that analysis is that sacks aren’t the be all and end all of pass rushing. A sack is the ideal result of a pass rush but it is a fairly rare event. What’s more important than getting the occasional sack is getting consistent pressure to disrupt quarterbacks. This is an area where Mebane has looked a bit better this year. Here is what Mebane has done pressuring quarterbacks the last three years according to PFF:

Year

Pass Rushing Snaps

Sacks

Hits

Hurries

Total Pressures

2011

346

1

5

8

14

2012

322

3

3

9

15

2013

188

0

2

18

20

 

Although Mebane has not taken any quarterbacks to the ground, he has created much more pressure than he has in recent years despite fewer snaps. He is hurrying throws on almost 10% of his pass rush snaps which is a very solid rate.

Some of this likely has to do with the better pass rush team wide. A powerful and varied pass rush like the one the Seahawks possess can create opportunities for everyone involved. For instance, if Mebane and Michael Bennett line up next to each other inside then Mebane will not attract the double team because Bennett is more dangerous.

We shouldn’t be entirely dismissive of Mebane’s gains though. In obvious passing situations the Seahawks sometimes go with a Clemons-McDonald-Bennett-Avril line so when Mebane is rushing he is often doing so alongside Tony McDaniel on first and second down. It’s unfair to give him no credit because his teammates have also been good.

At the end of the day Brandon Mebane is still primarily a guy whose job is to stop the run. If he can get at the quarterback a little bit that’s just gravy. It appears that the Seahawks are enjoying a little bit of that gravy this year as Mebane is giving them more push up the middle than they’ve seen in recent seasons. Brandon Mebane is never going to be the star of this defense but if he continues to play this good of an all-around game (Pro Football Focus grades him as the 8th best DT in the league this year) then he will quietly be one of the most important pieces on this team.

 

Topics: Brandon Mebane

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