After starting at the three-technique tackle position last season, just re-signed Brandon Mebane is moving to nose tackle on the Seahawks’ new-look line.
Pete Carroll has said it often enough that it could be included in his collection of catchphrases that define his “Always Compete” philosophy.
The second-year coach of the Seahawks is looking for players with unique talents and abilities.
Like Brandon Mebane.
The team not only re-signed Mebane in free agency last week, he has been moved to the pivotal nose tackle spot on the defensive line after starting at the three-technique position last season.
“Brandon is just a good interior D-lineman,” first-year line coach Todd Wash said. “He’s not necessarily a nose; he’s not necessarily a three-technique. He’s got the athletic ability and the burst and the get-off to play the three, and he’s got enough weight and anchor to play the nose.
“He’s very versatile.”
Told of Wash’s comments, Mebane just shrugged his massive shoulders, shifted the 318 pounds that are solidly stacked on his 6-foot-1 frame from one leg to the other and smiled.
“That’s cool,” he said.
So is the position switch. Because the nose is nothing new for Mebane, a third-round draft choice in 2007 – which was before Jim Mora had replaced Mike Holmgren as coach, and Carroll had replaced Mora. Mebane would slide over on occasion, regardless of whom the coach was and what defense he was running.
Now, however, that will be Mebane’s fulltime gig as the Seahawks prepare to defend their NFC West title, and improve a run defense that ranked second in the league at midseason last year only to slide to No. 21 by season’s end.
“I’m ready for it,” Mebane said. “Whatever they need me to do I’m ready to do it.”
Mebane has started 53 games the past four seasons, including 10 his rookie season. He has been somewhat of a surprise from the get-go. Holmgren’s staff wasn’t aware that Mebane possessed the quickness that allows him to rush the passer, because he wasn’t asked to do it at the University of California. But he collected 5½ in his second season to share the team lead.
That same quickness, not to mention his power, should continue to be an asset even though he’ll be playing over the center.
“By playing a lot of three-technique the last couple years, it helped me key different things and watch different things and learn different things,” he said. “So I can incorporate some of those three-technique things into play the nose.
“So I’m going to be the same way I’ve been.”
Which is, dependable, durable and productive. Mebane has missed only five games in four seasons – one in 2009 and four last year because of a calf injury. In ’09, he led the linemen in tackles (49).
Mebane plans to play at 315-318 pounds, which is not that much by nose-tackle standards.
“A lot of times, guys put their emphasis on being heavy,” he said. “But the majority of times, it’s really about having the smarts upstairs and quickness.”
With Mebane sliding to nose – where Colin Cole started last season – just-signed free agent Alan Branch will move in at the three-technique spot. He and Mebane were in the same draft class and also have seen each other twice a season because Branch played for the division rival Arizona Cardinals.
The 6-6 Branch weighs 325 pounds, but doesn’t look it. Then there’s Red Bryant, the 6-4, 323-pound former tackle who is now the five-technique end – a player Wash calls “a freak athlete; how big he is, how well he runs.”
As Mebane put it, “We’ve got some big bodies up there, now. This is as big we’ve ever been since I’ve been here – height-wise and weight-wise.”
With all the bulk at the other three spots, it should make life even better for “Leo” end Chris Clemons, a 254-pounder who led the team with a career-high 11 sacks last season.
“He’s so happy right now,” Mebane said.
Which also describes the Seahawks’ reaction to re-signing the uniquely talented Mebane.