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Danny O'Neil covers the Seahawks for The Seattle Times.

June 15, 2009 at 10:26 AM

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Brandon Mebane -- a subtle shift

Posted by Danny O'Neil

Seattle's first free-agent addition was also its biggest: Colin Cole, a 330-pound defensive lineman.

It's the significance of that move that was a little more subtle. See, Cole was signed to play nose guard, specifically, and not defensive tackle in general.

In recent years, the Seahawks have had interchangeable parts up front. No more. The Seahawks have nose guards now, Cole and back-up Red Bryant.

The real importance is where that moves Brandon Mebane. He will now be playing what is called the three-technique. That refers to a defensive tackle that usually lines up between the guard and tackle. Part of the reason the Seahawks acquired Cole specifically is that it granted the ability to move Mebane over.

"Drafting Big Red last year, and then signing Colin Cole this year," coach Jim Mora said, "watching their progress in the offseason allowed us to move Brandon out to three technique where we think he can be a more effective player."

Why is that?

"His explosiveness off the ball, his first step," Mora said. "His ability to get up the field in the run game. He's got some pass-rush ability. He'll spend less time on double teams at that position. He can be more disruptive.

"They call him a dancing bear. He's got initial quickness, he's got quick feet and that's what you're looking for at that position."

As a rookie, Mebane emerged as a mainstay on the defensive line, becoming a starter after Chuck Darby suffered a season-ending knee injury. He played plenty of nose guard, showing that he had the starch and toughness to work in the boiler room of the defense, holding off two blocks.

What will happen as he shifts exclusively to the three-technique?

"I have a lot of opportunities for one-on-one, a lot of opportunities for pass rush and just getting things started," Mebane said. "At first, I didn't realize with the position that I was blessed with. Now, as time moves on, I see that."

The Seahawks wanted to upgrade their pass rush over the offseason, but there wasn't that elite rush end available in free agency or at the top of the draft. They're going to rely upon improvement from within and hope that Aaron Curry can fill the pass-rushing void left by Julian Peterson's departure.

Less focused upon is the possible help Mebane will provide.

Mebane's pass-rush ability came as a surprise to the Seahawks after they chose him in the third-round of the 2007 NFL Draft. Pass rushing is not something he was called upon to do very often in college at Cal. He had four sacks his final season for the Bears.

Cal ran what Mebane called a two-gap system, and as a tackle, he dealt with two blockers on just about every play. The tackle's job was to plow straight ahead, which gave Mebane little room to use his quickness.

"Had I known that - no disrespect to Cal - it might have been a little different," Mebane said.

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