Seahawks new-look defensive line has something to prove

The Seahawks defensive linemen know they have questions to answer.

They know you’re wondering if they’re any good, if they can sack a quarterback, and in some case, wondering who the heck these guys even are.

And they fully intend of proving their doubters wrong in 2010.

“We’re just trying to be there for one another, because nobody really believes in our D-Line this year because we don’t really have any big names,” defensive tackle Brandon Mebane said. “We just all have to come together … You’re always going to have your doubters, so you can’t really worry about that, but we use that as encouragement to lift each other up.”

Mebane is one of two returning starters in a new-look defensive line for the Seahawks along with fellow defensive tackle Colin Cole. The ends, however, are people casual football fans, and even some Seahawks fans, don’t know much about. Red Bryant, a backup tackle the past two seasons, has been converted to a 323-pound end, and for now has the inside track on becoming one of, if not the biggest, starting defensive ends in football. On the other side of the line, Chris Clemons, who Seattle acquired in a trade with Philadelphia, is the starting end known as the “Leo.”

The two end positions are distinctly different in Pete Carroll’s defense. Bryant, a five-technique, is not meant to be a pass rushing threat, but rather someone who occupies blockers and is stout against the run. The “Leo,” conversely, is more of a hybrid between an end and linebacker, and is somebody who will specialize in rushing the quarterback.

“It’s like a cross between an end and a linebacker,” said defensive line coach Dan Quinn. “It’s a guy that’s got really good speed, length, athletic ability, rushing ability … He really is a hybrid. It’s a hard guy to find.”

A season ago, the Seahawks were tied for 26th in the league with just 28 sacks, and that was before three of the team’s top ends departed in the offseason, so the pressure is on Clemmons to have a big first season in Seattle.

And while Quinn admits his team needs more sacks, what’s more important, he says, is putting pressure on the quarterback whether a sack is recorded or not.

“We like to use the term affecting the quarterback,” he said. “Sometimes it’s hits, sometimes it’s sacks … Good fronts that I’ve been around are good at affecting the quarterback with sacks, hits, batted balls, and yeah, that’s definitely an area we’re working hard to improve on.”

Last year wasn’t all bad for the line, however. Despite being behind early in many games — meaning opponents would run the ball more — the Seahawks were 15th in the league in run defense, allowing 111 yards per game. They were even better when it came to yards per carry, ranking 11th (4.1).

But with two new starters out of the four, this new-look line isn’t too worried about what it did and didn’t do last year. Instead the players are looking toward 2010 as a chance to prove their doubters wrong.

“As a unit, we’ve got chips on our shoulders,” Bryant said. “A lot of people don’t really believe in us, and that’s OK. A lot of people see better than they hear, and if we start showing up every Sunday, then we’ll get people to believe in us. But we believe in each other and we know we can do something good if we continue to work.”