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Originally published November 24, 2011 at 8:08 PM | Page modified November 25, 2011 at 5:32 PM

Super-sized line gives Seahawks solid defensive foundation

The Seahawks' defensive strength is just that: their strength. A stout line has suddenly made them formidable.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Sunday

Redskins @ Seahawks, 1:05 p.m., Ch. 13

quotes Resigning Mebane was huge this off-season. The Hawks have three 300 pounders who not... Read more
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RENTON — Seattle defensive lineman Red Bryant isn't really an either-or guy when it comes to his Thanksgiving turkey.

White or dark meat?

"I like both," he said.

Of course he does. Bryant is 6 feet 4, 323 pounds and too big to put in any one box, and his sheer size helped kick-start the super-sizing of a defensive line that has become the bedrock for Seattle's defense.

"I like guys that have special, unique dimensions," coach Pete Carroll said. "Sometimes the dimensions are real big and we've utilized that. It's a matter of utilizing their strengths."

And in this case, the Seahawks' strength is just that: their strength. Seattle's defensive line is so stout it forced the past two opponents to shy away from deploying their Pro Bowl running backs. The Ravens' Ray Rice got only five carries in the Seahawks' upset two weeks ago while the Rams' Steven Jackson was held to 42 yards — his second-lowest output of the season — last week in St. Louis.

Seattle's four starting defensive linemen average 303.3 pounds, which isn't all that heavy. It ranks 11th of the league's 32 teams, but fourth heaviest among teams that use the 4-3 defense with four down linemen.

Average doesn't tell you the whole story, though, because that includes Chris Clemons, a pass-rushing specialist who weighs 254 pounds. The beef comes from Bryant, nose tackle Alan Branch — listed at 325 — and defensive tackle Brandon Mebane, who is more than a few Happy Meals above his listed weight of 311.

There's only one team in the league other than Seattle that started three linemen listed at more than 310 pounds: the Green Bay Packers. Their XXL trio of B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett and Howard Green all weigh more than 335.

Carroll's defenses have tended to be fast and active, and he didn't come to Seattle with the idea of getting bigger up front. That idea only came once he got a load of who already was on hand.

"I saw what Red could do," Carroll said.

Bryant, a fourth-round pick from Texas A&M in 2008, played sparingly as a nose tackle his first two seasons. The switch to defensive end amounted to a fresh start.

"All of a sudden he found a new life," Carroll said.

And the Seahawks found a cornerstone for their run defense, and a blueprint for the defensive line.

"The thought of getting huge was in our minds," Carroll said. "So we started looking to see if we could go that way."

They signed Branch in free agency, a defensive lineman who was a part-time player in his four seasons with the Cardinals. A former second-round pick, Branch's career has been rejuvenated in Seattle, and the Seahawks also brought back Mebane.

The result is a defense whose strength is stopping the run between the tackles, and the challenge for the Seahawks is keeping opponents from running to the outside.

"We want to set the edge," defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. "Turn everything back inside to our big guys."

Size may not be everything, but it has been the biggest factor for the Seahawks' defensive front, which has shown quite an appetite for opposing ball carriers.

Notes

• Seattle signed OL Allen Barbre to take the place of James Carpenter, the rookie lineman who was placed on injured reserve. Barbre spent two months with the Seahawks last season. Carpenter and fellow rookie John Moffitt each underwent knee surgery Wednesday.

• WR Sidney Rice missed his second consecutive practice with a knee injury, casting doubt on his availability Sunday. Rice was held out of the end of Sunday's game at St. Louis because of what Carroll characterized as cramps. Rice has played the last eight games after missing the first two starts this season because of a sore shoulder.

• Branch also did not practice for a second consecutive day because of a sore ankle, but has not been ruled out. WR Ben Obomanu was limited in practice after sitting out Wednesday because of an injured ankle and knee.

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @dannyoneil

Pound for pound
Red Bryant, Alan Branch and Brandon Mebane give Seattle one of the biggest starting trios along the defensive line in the NFL:
Team Player (weight) Player (weight) Player (weight) Total
Packers Ryan Pickett (340) B.J. Raji (337) Howard Green (340) 1,017
Ravens Haloti Ngata (330) Terrence Cody (349) Cory Redding (298) 977
Dolphins Jared Odrick (304) Paul Soliai (355) Randy Starks (305) 964
Seahawks Red Bryant (323) Brandon Mebane (311) Alan Branch (325) 959
N.Y. Jets Muhammad Wilkerson (315) Sione Pouha (325) Mike DeVito (305) 945
San Diego Vaughn Martin (308) Cam Thomas (335) Corey Liuget (300) 943
Oakland Lamarr Houston (305) John Henderson (335) Tommy Kelly (300) 940
Tampa Bay Brian Price (303) Albert Haynesworth (350) Adam Clayborn (287) 940
New England Brandon Deaderick (305) Vince Wilfork (325) Kyle Love (310) 940

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