The argument could be made that defensive tackle Brandon Mebane is a Pro Bowl snub.
Don’t look at his 45 tackles or the fact he hasn’t registered a sack or forced fumble this season. As good as he has been, his numbers don’t reflect his value.
In the words of teammates, Mebane is a dog, a beast, the man in the middle. By some measures, he has been one of the league’s best interior defensive linemen, yet he wasn’t even selected as an alternate for the Pro Bowl.
“I’m a little biased,” linebacker Bruce Irvin said, “but I feel like Mebane’s the best defensive tackle in the league, who goes unnoticed. The guy’s been in the league the last five, six years and hasn’t gone to the Pro Bowl. But you turn on the tape and can’t nobody run in his gap.”
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“He don’t get a lot of credit, and it’s unfortunate,” defensive end Red Bryant said. “I don’t know why he doesn’t. But in this locker room, we regard him as one of the best at his position. No question about it.”
Mebane is Pro Football Focus’ third-ranked defensive tackle, right behind Pro Bowlers Gerald McCoy and Ndamukong Suh. He is the site’s second-ranked tackle against the run.
He has been at his best down the stretch, combining his propensity for stopping the run with the ability to pressure the passer.
In Seattle’s season finale against St. Louis, Mebane played like a semi truck. The Seahawks held St. Louis to a franchise-low 13 rushing yards, and much of that started with Mebane’s penetration and his six tackles.
He also hit St. Louis quarterback Kellen Clemens’ arm as he threw, which led to a Byron Maxwell interception. Another time, he bulled over an offensive lineman and forced Clemens to rush his throw.
“He just took control of the whole game,” safety Earl Thomas said, “and it’s crazy that nobody recognized it. That’s the impact that guy can make.”
Linebacker Bobby Wagner certainly noticed. Mebane isn’t the biggest defensive tackle at 6 feet 1, 311 pounds, and he consistently faces double teams. But he is so quick for his size, so good at maintaining leverage and using his body, that he is still a factor.
Requiring a double team means he’s occupying offensive linemen that otherwise would be free to block Wagner and Seattle’s other linebackers. Mebane might not make the tackle, but his penetration in the backfield helps others make the stop.
“He makes my job easier,” Wagner said. “He makes my life a lot better. He helps dictate where the ball is going to go. As a linebacker, if you know where the ball is going to go, it makes your life a lot easier.”
Seattle’s defensive success starts up front. The pass rush gets much of the attention, but it’s the Seahawks’ ability to stop the run that puts opposing offenses in passing situations.
When that is happening, Mebane is usually concrete up the middle.
“He’s one of the key components of what we’re trying to accomplish on defense,” Bryant said.
To date, Mebane has largely operated in anonymity nationally. Wagner smiles at the thought. He thinks that could change.
“With the playoffs and all the prime-time games we’ve got,” he said, “that’s going to give him a lot of exposure.”