Continuing the theme of the Chargers front seven, today we take a look at one of the most underrated additions of the offseason, Brandon Mebane. Is it because it's not a sexy position? Probably. Eating double teams and not racking up stats isn't fun to talk about. But for one of the worst run defenses, three years and running, the interior of the defense could certainly use some upgrades and that's exactly what Mebane is: an upgrade.
Most fans don't believe it was one or the other last year in regards to "was it the nose tackle that wasn't doing his job" or "was it the linebackers that weren't doing their jobs." It was both. For what he is, Sean Lissemore is a solid player and held up fine. It's when he was stretched into playing more where you really saw his value decrease. The addition of Mebane should not only lessen Lissemore's role but should also put him back at defensive end where he should be able to help the team out even more. Mebane also will provide veteran leadership and hopefully help a young guy like Ryan Carrethers develop.
When the Seahawks lost Mebane, one of their best players Michael Bennett had this to say
He's the most important person to this defense. Everybody thinks it's the Legion of Boom or me or Cliff (Avril), but it's really Mebane.
More in depth here but the quote is quite telling. With what Bennett said, and the handful of games I watched, I think fans are underrating the impact Mebane will have, if only for a year.
I say Lissemore was fine but when it came to double teams both he and Carrethers did not hold up at the point of attack. Watching Mebane versus the Browns (Alex Mack), Panthers twice (Ryan Kalil), Cowboys (Travis Frederick) and Bengals, they just could not move him. It was consistent.
This is a double whammy for the defense. Not only does it free your linebackers up but it also forces the running back to redirect his path. This matters. This is something new that wasn't on the defense last year. There are multiple reasons San Diego finished 24th in DVOA for adjusted line yards up the middle. Seattle was 2nd in the same metric and a big reason why is Mebane being able to barely budge when two guys blocking him. A lot of players get high and try to locate the ball, like Carrethers, Mebane drops his butt and doesn't move.
Resetting the line of scrimmage
One thing I do value high is watching premier players going head to head and if one of the players just dominates their match-up. What Jason Verrett did to Antonio Brown on Monday Night Football is a good example of this. The Cowboys' center is arguably the best center in the game and Mebane manhandled him.
Mebane vs arguably the best C in the game & constantly playing on the other side of the LOS pic.twitter.com/2sByBEZUQn— KP (@KP_Show) March 10, 2016
That just doesn't happen to Frederick. It wasn't a fluke, as he did the same thing against Mack.
You probably know that Mebane is as strong as he is bald but what's impressive is how quick he will reset the line of scrimmage but does so with good technique. His hands are almost always inside. Him being able to give the Chargers 30-35 high quality run snaps where he's just eating double teams and playing on te other side of the line of scrimmage when left one-on-one is another giant step up for the team. The difference last year is while the nose tackle didn't necessarily get washed out, he wasn't moving the center back. That changes with Mebane.
Anything Mebane brings to the table as a pass rusher is a luxury. He won't have to see snaps on obvious passing downs with Bosa, Liuget and Philon. Who all excel at rushing the passer. That's not even counting if when the team kicks one of their outside linebackers in side. Though Mebane can push the pocket.
What to expect
I don't have many bad things to say about Mebane. He's a quality signing for a team that needs help up the middle. He's an upgrade at the position and holds double teams longer than most nose tackles in the league which in turn allows the second level defenders to make plays as well as the running backs to redirect their path. Both favor the defense. At worst the Chargers run defense with Mebane improves on the strength that he plays with good technique and hustles up and down the line of scrimmage by about 5% per DVOA. At best Mebane is the true missing link that helps the Chargers get teams into 3rd and long. With somewhere in between being the truth, Mebane makes the defense better. A very good signing for San Diego