Pat Kirwan has tackled the task of ranking and rating the league’s defensive linemen in this piece at CBSSports.com.
A former scout, coach and front-office exec in the NFL, Kirwan begins by offering, “It’s not enough to refer to defensive linemen as simply defensive linemen. In fact, it’s not enough to call tackles just tackles and ends just ends. There is a lot more to the job description.”
He also includes four of the Seahawks’ D-linemen in his report. Here’s where they rank and what Kirwan has to say about them (the numbers for each are a combination grade for drawing double teams, hustle and pursuit and sacks/hurries/knockdowns):
On the rise
No. 8 Bruce Irvin (30.5) – “Irvin is a 4-3 RDE coming off a rookie season as a situational pass rusher. If he stays in that role, he will find himself back on this list next year, which isn’t a bad thing.”
No. 9 Red Bryant (6) – “Bryant will never have big numbers but he is a critical piece in Seattle’s defense. He two-gaps a lot in a 4-3 front and anchors the run defense. To appreciate all the dirty work he does up front, look at what happens to the Seattle D when Bryant isn’t on the field.”
4-3 right ends
4. Chris Clemons (42.5) – “Clemons is coming off an ACL injury and may not be ready to go, which means Cliff Avril gets the call. Clemons is a perfect fit in the Seattle defense and if healthy will have a 40-plus season.”
4-3 left ends
5. Michael Bennett (44) – “I can’t believe the Bucs let him go. Now he fortifies an already good Seattle defensive line. Bennett may not have the production he had last year and could struggle to match his numbers from 2012.”
If there’s a nit to be picked here, it’s: Where’s Brandon Mebane? The Seahawks’ nose tackle has produced 56 sacks in each of the past two seasons and was an alternate to the Pro Bowl last season. And he usually leaves the field on passing downs, while almost always drawing and handling double-team blocks when on the field.
Kirwan has the Patriots’ Vince Wilfork, Bills’ Marcell Dareus, Bengals’ Domata Peko, Rams’ Michael Brockers and Cowboys’ Jason Hatcher as his Top 5. Good players. But are all of them better than Mebane?
One word answer: Underrated. Two word answer: Still underrated.