As you’ll have already seen, we’re delving into the PFF database this week to bring you some unique profiles for some of the players sure to play a big role in determining the winner of the Lombardi Trophy this Sunday. After yesterday’s look at both sets of wide receivers, we’re switching back to the defensive side of the ball today and focusing on Seattle Seahawks’ defensive lineman Brandon Mebane.
A third-round draft pick out of California in 2007, Mebane has long been held in high regard by the team here at PFF, with 2011 the only season since we began grading back in 2008 where he has finished with a negative grade (-1.2). Even considering that, however, few could have expected the kind of year he has had this year, finishing the regular season as our third-highest graded defensive tackle and as arguably the best player on a ridiculously talented and deep defensive line.
Mebane has been used almost exclusively on early downs this year, with 478 of his 541 regular season defensive snaps coming in the team’s base 4-3 defense. Most of those snaps have come at defensive tackle in a four-man line, with a total of 423 snaps where he has been lined up as either the left or right defensive tackle. When the Seahawks have opted for a three-man line as part of their base defense, something which has lessened as the year has gone on, he has generally been found at nose tackle, though 19 of his 94 snaps at that position did come in the Week 1 game in Carolina.
Mebane’s strength in the middle of the defense allowed the Seahawks to focus on the outside of their defensive line in the offseason, bringing in players like Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. Adding them to the outside has helped make the Seattle defensive line into the deepest group in the league, something Mebane’s role in shouldn’t be overlooked.
As you may remember from our Defensive Prototypes series in the offseason, Mebane is our poster boy for the 1-Technique, drawing double teams to allow other players in the Seattle defense the freedom to make plays. Drawing double teams is something Mebane is good at, but it hasn’t limited his ability to make plays by himself either.
Stout Against the Run
On the season, only the New York Jets’ Damon Harrison had a higher grade against the run than Mebane (+22.7), as he finished in the Top 5 in that regard for the second season in a row. On the field for 266 snaps against the run in the regular season, Mebane made 22 solo tackles which resulted in a defensive stop, good for a Run Stop Percentage of 8.3%, which saw him ranked a modest 14th among all defensive tackles.
He manages to grade out so well against the run, despite the modest RSP ranking, because of his ability to disrupt plays even when he’s not making a tackle. For a better look at that, check out his Week 16 game against the Arizona Cardinals, where he has several plays when he stood up his blocker at the point of attack. That included some nice work on 2nd-and-8 with 2:58 left in the game, with Mebane refusing to give an inch to right guard Paul Fanaika and forcing running back Rashard Mendenhall to cut inside. Plays like that highlight what a tough task he’ll make for the Denver running game on Sunday night. The bigger question is can a player with zero sacks in the regular season can be a threat as a pass rusher too?
Sack Numbers Lie
Of course he can! Sacks are a funny thing, and not always the best indication for how well a player has performed as a pass rusher. Obviously you want a passing play to end with the quarterback on the ground if you’re a defensive lineman, but it’s important not to overlook the other types of pressure generated by a player. You see, despite the lack of sacks from him, Mebane has been able to register 32 total pressures in 2013. Those pressures have come on 240 pass rushing snaps, good for a Pass Rushing Productivity rating of 10.0, third among defensive tackles playing at least 25% of their team’s pass rushing snaps.
His best outing as a pass rusher this season came in the regular season finale against the St. Louis Rams, as Mebane beat the Rams’ interior trio of Chris Williams, Tim Barnes, and Shelley Smith to the tune of two hits and four hurries from just 10 pass rushing opportunities.
Big Game Matchups
Should tendencies hold true, and he continues to see his highest number of snaps at the right defensive tackle spot, Mebane poses a favorable matchup for the Seahawks lined up against left guard Zane Beadles. The other two members of the Denver interior offensive line, Manuel Ramirez and Louis Vasquez, have both performed well, with Beadles the lone player along the starting offensive line with a negative grade. He has performed much better as of late though, with no negatively-graded games since Week 14 and two of his five best games of the year coming in the playoffs.
Mebane, on the other hand, has been quieter in the postseason than he was in the regular season with an even 0.0 grade through two playoff games. Still, that’s not been typical of Mebane this year, and you would expect him to be a tough assignment for whoever has to block him in the Super Bowl.
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