Michael Bennett, Brandon Mebane and Cliff Avril may dominate the conversation about the strength of the Seattle Seahawks defensive line, but it’s the other five guys that may make this year’s group one of the best in the NFL.
Last season the Seahawks were the top defense in the league, allowing only 267 yards per game and 15.9 points per contest. While the “Legion of Boom” secondary got much of the credit for the Seahawks’ success, Seattle was the second-best run stuffing team, allowing only 3.4 yards per attempt.
The Seahawks, however, only ranked 20th in sacks recording 36, after finishing eighth in 2013 with 44 sacks.
With the additions of rookie Frank Clark and projected starting defensive tackle Ahyta Rubin — who played for Cleveland last season — a healthy Brandon Mebane (he missed seven games last year) and another year of experience for third-year Jordan Hill and second-year Cassius Marsh, the Seahawks may be just as deep from one to eight as they were when they won the Super Bowl.
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The core remains from the 2013 squad — Mebane, Bennett and Avril — but after Red Bryant and Clinton McDonald departed in free agency, the line didn’t look the same last season.
Enter Clark and Rubin.
Rubin is the big body defensive tackle that started for the Browns the past five years and will likely start most games for the Seahawks this season. He’ll bolster the run defense with Mebane.
Clark is the speedy rookie that can play inside as a tackle or outside as an end, comparable to Bennett. The rookie recorded 15 tackles, a sack and two forced fumbles in preseason and should give Seattle an additional pass rusher.
“I wouldn’t say I knew I was going to do well, but I prepared myself well,” Clark said after his nine-tackle performance in the first preseason game. “I go out there, I go and practice, I got guys, whether it’s a vet or a first- and second-year on the team that are on my back to make sure I give my best effort.”
And that may be the key to this defensive line — they push each other because there’s so much talent.
It’s what also makes the d-line room “a whole lot of fun,” Marsh said after the first preseason game against Denver on Aug. 14.
“We’ve had some characters in there but we have some guys that I think are the best players in the league,” the second-year end said. “Michael Bennett, Mebane, Cliff (Avril). There’s really no better defensive linemen than them in the league. I really truly believe that. I think they’re highly underrated so I feel blessed to learn from them everyday.”
It keeps the young guys humble, too, knowing the success the starters have had.
Bennett has recorded more than eight sacks a year the past three seasons. Rubin averaged 58 tackles a season after transitioning to a fulltime Browns starter in 2010. Mebane has an all-pro year under his belt and has been a starter with Seattle since his rookie year in 2007. Avril has averaged 7.5 sacks a season over his seven-year career with Detroit and Seattle.
“You got all these guys who have been around for multiple years. They got a lot of wisdom and got a lot of knowledge to teach,” Clark said. “It’s just a blessing. I believe I fell into the perfect place for Frank Clark.”
Clark also knows the Seahawks have been to back-to-back Super Bowls, making it liberating to not have to be the star.
“It’s always repeated to me. We’re going to be good with or without Frank Clark. That’s the thing I like to hear,” Clark said. “That lets me know that there’s already a foundation built. They run Frank Clark in just to help the team, to help the team get to where they want to be. That’s all I’m here for. I’m just here to help my ugys out and help the next man up the best I can.”
When the Seahawks season begins against St. Louis on Sunday, Sept. 13, keep an eye on the defensive line and not just on the starters. This line may be young, but it’s more talented than meets the eye.
Seahawks defensive line
A look at how this year’s defensive line performed last season:
*with Cleveland; ^with San Francisco