RENTON, Wash. – Familiarity with a franchise kept Brandon Mebane in Seattle. Familiarity with an old position could lead to big things for the defensive tackle in 2011.
Mebane, one the Seahawks’ top free agents after the 2010 season, re-signed with Seattle after a hectic week of free agency, in large part because he felt comfortable with the Seahawks, the only organization he has known since coming here as a third-round pick in 2007.
“It was a real big thing to me to come back to a place where I was already familiar with the guys on the D-line, because having that chemistry with your defensive line is a big key,” Mebane said. “I couldn’t really get a good feel on other places in that short period of time, so this was the best fit for me. Everything happened for a reason, and I’m glad I came back.”
Now Mebane, who signed a deal reportedly worth $25 million over five years, will begin his fifth season in Seattle adjusting to a slightly different position than what he played the past two seasons. Playing alongside Colin Cole in 2009 and 2010, Mebane was the three-technique tackle, a player that normally lines up on the outside shoulder of an offensive guard, while Cole was the nose tackle lining up over the center.
This season, Pete Carroll and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley have moved Mebane to the nose, with newly signed Alan Branch playing the three-tech (Cole is recovering from ankle surgery and is not expected back soon). The position change shouldn’t be much of an adjustment for Mebane. In his first two seasons, he spent more time as a one-technique tackle, which is closer to the nose tackle he is playing now, and in 2008 he recorded a career-high 5.5 sacks in that role.
“I did both my first year,” he said. “Nose and a three, we were sliding on the line. It’s nothing unfamiliar to me. It’s just reading different keys now.”
In his first two weeks of training camp, going back to that old role seems to be paying dividends for Mebane. He of course will still need to show it in games, but early in training camp Mebane has been a menace in the backfield, stuffing running plays and pressuring quarterbacks.
“It’s good to see Brandon playing on the nose,” Carroll said. “He really looks like a factor there. I wish we would have done more of it last year, because I have more information now, but he looks good.”
While the Seahawks got the most attention for signing free agents such as receiver Sidney Rice, quarterback Tarvaris Jackson and tight end Zach Miller, keeping Mebane was one of their most important moves in free agency. Last year’s defense was impressive against the run early in the season, but long-term injuries to Cole and end Red Bryant, and a less serious calf injury to Mebane, showed just how thin the Seahawks were beyond the starting four. What started the year as the league’s No. 2 run defense finished the year ranked 21st. When the Seahawks used only one draft pick – and a seventh-rounder at that – on the defensive line, keeping Mebane became even more important.
“That was huge for us,” Bradley said. “… The team really respects him a great deal, so when he’s up there in front, he brings a real confidence to the defense.”
Mebane is all smiles when he talks about returning to the Seahawks and a defensive line he knows so well. “We all get along, we know each other,” he said. “I’ve got my big dog, Red, next to me. I’m good, man. I’m good.”
Seahawks add Bigby
The Seahawks announced that they signed safety Atari Bigby, who has spent his six-year NFL career in Green Bay. Bigby was a starter for the Packers, when healthy, from 2007 to 2009, but he appeared in only four games last year, none as a starter, and Green Bay decided not to bring him back this season.
Bigby’s best season came in 2007, when he started all 16 games and recorded 86 tackles and had five interceptions. The 29-year-old is unlikely to start in Seattle – the Seahawks are high on second-year strong safety Kam Chancellor – but Bigby will provide a veteran presence for an otherwise extremely young safety group. Prior to the signing, Chancellor was the oldest safety on the Seahawks’ roster.
Fullback Dorson Boyce, an undrafted rookie out of the University of Washington, was released to make room on the roster.