After letting Brandon Mebane leave via free agency, the Seahawks are counting on Reed, a second-round draft pick, to team with Rubin inside and continue to stuff opponents’ rushing attacks.
With the Seahawks set to report for training camp July 29 (practices begin the next day), it’s time to look at the players I feel are most pivotal in 2016.
Call it “16 for ’16,’’ as we count down the 16 most important Seahawks in 2016, unveiling one new player each day until the team reports.
The countdown continues with No. 13, another combined entry in defensive tackles Jarran Reed and Ahtyba Rubin. Their ability to work well together will be key in keeping the Seattle defense atop the NFL.
Players: Jarran Reed and Ahtyba Rubin.
Position: Defensive tackle.
2016 contract status: Reed is entering the first season of a four-year slotted rookie contract that will pay him a guaranteed $2.87 million with a base salary of $450,000 in 2016. Rubin is entering the first season of a three-year, $12 million deal with $5.5 million guaranteed and a base salary in 2016 of $1 million.
Expected 2016 role:Reed was drafted with the 49th overall pick in the second round with the expectation of replacing veteran Brandon Mebane at nose tackle. Rubin was re-signed to again fill the three-technique defensive-tackle spot.
Why they are ranked here: Though much of the attention for Seattle’s regular-season second-half surge understandably focused on the passing game, a resurgent run defense was another key.
In the final seven regular-season games (6-1 record), Seattle allowed more than 59 rushing yards just twice and not more than 104 (to the Rams and rookie sensation Todd Gurley, on 30 carries).
In those seven games, the Seahawks allowed 401 total rushing yards on 120 carries (3.3 yards per attempt). They held five of the seven opponents to less than 3.7 yards per carry.
That late-season stoutness helped the Seahawks finish the season with the fewest average rushing yards allowed at 81.5 (and 3.6 per carry). That helped the Seahawks lead the NFL in fewest points allowed for a fourth consecutive season.
Run defense is as much of a team effort as anything in football, but the play of Rubin and Mebane inside was an obvious factor.
Both became unrestricted free agents at the end of the season, and the Seahawks decided to keep the younger (by about 18 months) and cheaper Rubin (Mebane received a three-year, $13.5 million deal), assuming they could replace Mebane via free agency and/or the draft.
The Seahawks then stumbled onto Reed, who many figured would go in the first round but was available as the second round hit the midway point. Seattle made a quick trade to move up from 56 to 49 to get Reed, a player the Seahawks later said was one of 16 to whom they had given first-round grades (Seattle’s actual first-round pick, Germain Ifedi, being another).
Seattle coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider have said they thought Reed, a graduate of Alabama, was the best run-stuffing defensive tackle available in the draft.
And Seattle has shown immediate confidence in Reed by placing him in the starting defense at tackle next to Rubin.
Lots of other players will factor into Seattle’s run defense in 2016 — the Seahawks also signed veteran Sealver Siliga to help replace Mebane, for instance.
But how well Rubin and Reed can replicate the work by Rubin and Mebane inside a year ago should be a significant factor in whether the Seattle defense can replicate its overall success from 2015.