Smaller Brandon Mebane out to play a larger role for Seahawks
Defensive tackle lost almost 30 pounds this offseason in preparation for a new defensive scheme that requires more quickness
Seattle Times staff reporter
RENTON — Brandon Mebane won't lie. He misses that Triple Stack hamburger from Wendy's.
It used to be a favorite. Add a chicken nugget or four and an order of large fries, now that was a meal.
At least it used to be for Mebane, and then this offseason the decision was made that a little less Mebane would be a whole lot more productive as he moved over one spot on the defensive line.
Getting slim was in, which meant triple-stacked fast-food items were out. So were most fried foods, and the defensive tackle who topped out at 330 pounds in his second season in the NFL reported for training camp last week at an almost svelte 304.
"He's as lean and mean a fighting machine as he's ever been," president Tim Ruskell said.
While the Seahawks defense is trying to bounce back from a puzzlingly awful 2008 season, Mebane appears on the verge of a breakthrough. A third-round pick from Cal in 2007, he stepped in as a rookie starter after Chuck Darby went down with a season-ending injury, and plugged the gap so well linebacker Lofa Tatupu said he doubted the team would have made the playoffs without him.
Mebane started every game for Seattle last season, and he plays with a constant energy and low center of gravity that makes him a nightmare for opponents. And then Mebane turned out to be such a load he surprised even himself, reaching 330 pounds last season.
"I really didn't need that weight," he said.
It wasn't necessarily a problem last year because there were plenty of times he lined up across from the opposing center and guard, charged with occupying two 300-pound men at the line of scrimmage. He needed every ounce he could get.
But this offseason, Seattle defined its defensive tackle roles more clearly as it instituted a new defense, hiring Gus Bradley to be the coordinator and Dan Quinn to coach the defensive line. It used to be Seattle's tackles were interchangeable, playing both position. Now there is more structure. The 330-pound Colin Cole and second-year tackle Red Bryant play nose tackle, lined up between the center and guard. Mebane and Craig Terrill use the three-technique, lined up across from the other guard's outside shoulder.
That means more one-on-one blocking matchups for Mebane, which meant he needed to get lighter.
"I have to move to be special in this defense," Mebane said.
So he set about slimming down. Less red meat, more sushi. A lot more sushi. Mebane has had a taste for fish since he was a senior in college, and he'll scarf down 16 pieces no problem. Spider rolls, Philadelphia rolls, you name it.
And by the time he arrived at training camp, he was lighter than he's been at any point since he left Cal.
"He looks really good," coach Jim Mora said. "He looks quick. He knows in order to play that position, you need that initial quickness and he made a real commitment this offseason."
Now, the question is whether less Mebane will result in more of a starring role on this defense, which has missed a play-squashing presence at defensive tackle since Marcus Tubbs' knees failed him in the two years after Seattle's Super Bowl appearance.
The rest of the defense seems to be on the comeback trail. Tatupu is playing to get back to the Pro Bowl level he played at his first three seasons, the starting safeties Deon Grant and Brian Russell are trying to restore the swagger of a secondary that went from allowing the fewest touchdown passes in the league in 2007 to allowing more passing yards than any other team in 2008.
Mebane, however, stands poised for what could be a breakout season.
"He's given indications that could happen," Mora said.
Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
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