2015 SEASON REVIEW – Defensive Line
If the Offensive Line was the weak point of the team, it very well could have been because they were too worn out on gameday after dealing with the juggernaut that was the 2015 Seattle Seahawks Defensive Line. Statistics tell the story of a Defensive Line that carried 4 of the top 4-3 Linemen in the NFL in 2015 by efficiency numbers, and though it did not always translate into sacks it did translate into impact on the field.
At Defensive End, Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril combined for 19 sacks and 18 tackles for loss on the year. That is over half of the team’s 37 sacks, and make the Seahawks one of 3 teams ot land 2 players in the top 20 for sacks. While the adjusted sack rate was only tied for 14th (6.7%), a lot of that had to do with breakdowns in coverage allowing for completions where coverage sacks may have been possible. Throw in Frank Clark’s 3 sacks and 2 tackles for a loss, as well as Cassius Marsh’s 5 tackles for a loss and you can see how a very functional 4 player rotation at end emerged during the year.
At Defensive Tackle the story was again about two players dominating the playing time (Brandon Mebane and Ahtyba Rubin) while there was also youth taking snaps and making plays (Jordan Hill when he was healthy). You also have Michael Bennett and Frank Clark rushing the quarterback from the Defensive Tackle position on some downs, which was an interesting changeup we’ve seen with Bennett before and it was nice to see Clark used similarly. Mebane was his typical reliable self who, outside of a few off games to start the year, put in solid work every week. He recorded 1.5 sacks and 2 tackles for a loss as well as doing to grunt work of occupying his spot and demanding enough attention to let the other defensive playmakers play their game. Ahtyba Rubin was something of a revelation, having been signed to functionally replace Kevin Williams in the offseason. All Rubin did was start all 16 games, record 2 sacks, and plug up the middle allowing no runningback anything that resembled easy yards around him. Add in Jordan Hill who missed some time in October as well as December with injuries but did show improved play against the run. In all, the unit was a bit thinner than previous years (by numbers, for sure not size) but was very effective.
I also want to draw attention to the fact that Seattle managed to finish 12th in Adjusted Line Yards against runningbacks last season. While 12th may not seem like a great finish, it does mark their 3rd consecutive season in the top half of the league in that category and again shows how this front office and coaching staff have had a wonderful ability to pull what appears to be spare parts at Defensive Tackle from elsewhere and put it together as a high functioning unit. With Mebane and Rubin both set to be Unrestricted Free Agents this is a skill that very likely will be called upon once again.
GRADE – A
Bennett and Avril were among the best at their positions, Mebane and Rubin held the middle well. The line got after the QB without blitzing, and was stout against the run. Young players like Frank Clark, Cassius Marsh, and Jordan Hill all played big roles as good depth on the team. This unit looked great in 2015. However, with Bennett’s contract looking like it will require a restructuring and with Mebane and Rubin both Free Agents, this line may look very different in 2016.