Charger knows Sea­hawks well

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Mike DiGio­vanna mike.digio­vanna@la­

Nose tackle Bran­don Me­bane was a starter with two dom­i­nant de­fenses that reached the Su­per Bowl.

Nose tackle Bran­don Me­bane has no vendetta against the Seat­tle Sea­hawks and no de­sire to use Sun­day’s pre­sea­son opener against them to show they made a mis­take let­ting him go two win­ters ago.

Even if he did, Me­bane, a starter on dom­i­nant de­fenses that led the Sea­hawks to Su­per Bowls in 2013 and 2014, wouldn’t have a plat­form large enough to make his case.

Most Charg­ers starters are ex­pected to play a few se­ries of downs in the 5 p.m. game at StubHub Cen­ter, so Me­bane’s work­day — his first against his former team — will prob­a­bly end in the first quar­ter.

“I’m not hyped up or putting too much on it — it’s just a nor­mal foot­ball game,” Me­bane, 32, said af­ter Fri­day’s light work­out in Costa Mesa. “It will be good to see a lot of those dudes I haven’t seen in a while. It will be in­ter­est­ing to play them. But I have noth­ing per­sonal against them, noth­ing to prove.

“A lot of peo­ple don’t know that I could have gone back there. It wasn’t that they didn’t want me any­more. I wanted to leave. You know, one player is never gonna beat an NFL fran­chise. They’re gonna make their money at the end of the day. … It def­i­nitely isn’t about me.”

The 6-foot-1, 311-pound Me­bane — a Los Angeles na­tive who starred at Cren­shaw High School and Cal — had 386 tack­les, 15.5 sacks and two forced fum­bles in 153 games (143 of them starts) for Seat­tle from 2007 to 2015.

But his play­ing time slipped in 2015, when he had 24 tack­les and 1.5 sacks, and he was 31 when his con­tract ex­pired. The Sea­hawks wanted Me­bane back, but not at the price the Charg­ers were will­ing to pay.

Me­bane signed a three­year, $13.5 mil­lion deal with San Diego and started 10 games in 2016, record­ing 35 tack­les and one sack be­fore suf­fer­ing a sea­son-end­ing bi­ceps in­jury on Nov. 13 against Mi­ami.

The move to Los Angeles this sea­son will give Me­bane a chance to do some­thing he hasn’t done since his se­nior sea­son at Cren­shaw in 2002: Win a game on Los Angeles turf. In his four years at Cal, the Bears lost twice at UCLA (2003, 2005) and twice at USC (2004, 2006).

Me­bane couldn’t re­mem­ber his last win in L.A. “I think it was against Man­ual Arts or some­body,” he said. For the record, it was a 19-18 win over Dorsey on Nov. 15, 2002, in which Cren­shaw scored the win­ning touch­down with 45 sec­onds left.

Cren­shaw’s rally from a 12-0 half­time deficit be­gan with a one-yard touch­down run by a stout de­fen­sive line­man who en­tered games at full­back in goal-line sit­u­a­tions: Bran­don Me­bane.

Hold the line

Sun­day’s game will give the re­vamped of­fen­sive line a chance to build on the chem­istry it will need to pro­tect quar­ter­back Philip Rivers and open run­ning lanes for Melvin Gor­don.

Left tackle King Dun­lap, left guard Or­lando Franklin and right guard D.J. Fluker are gone from last sea­son. The Charg­ers signed free-agent left tackle Rus­sell Okung to a four-year, $53 mil­lion con­tract, $25 mil­lion of which is guar­an­teed.

Fill­ing out the start­ing line are cen­ter Spencer Pul­ley, left guard Matt Slau­son, right guard Kenny Wig­gins (who re­placed the in­jured For­rest Lamp) and right tackle Joe Barks­dale.

“Of­fen­sive line is hard, be­cause it’s five guys with one col­lec­tive goal,” said the 6-5, 310-pound Okung, who played for Seat­tle (2010-2016) and Den­ver (2016). “You have to be in sync on al­most ev­ery sin­gle play.”

Of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Ken Whisen­hunt is in­ter­ested in how line­men com­mu­ni­cate and re­act to var­i­ous stunts, blitzes and styles of rush­ers at game speed.

“How are they gonna work to­gether when they’re in dou­ble teams or on their sin­gle blocks?” Whisen­hunt said. “How are they gonna hold up one on one? How are they gonna be able to com­mu­ni­cate if we see a dif­fer­ent look? We’re gonna see some­thing in this game that we haven’t pre­pared for, be­cause we’re not game-plan­ning for th­ese guys, we haven’t stud­ied a lot of film on them. So a big part of it will be, how do they ad­just to that?” Nuts and bolts

The Charg­ers will be thin at tight end against Seat­tle. Re­serves Jeff Cum­ber­land (sore legs) and Sean McGrath (hy­per­ex­tended left knee) sat out Fri­day’s prac­tice and are doubt­ful for Sun­day. Un­drafted rookie Sean Culkin, who got some reps with the first team Fri­day, and re­cently signed Mike Estes could see plenty of ac­tion Sun­day be­hind starters An­to­nio Gates and Hunter Henry. The team also added depth Fri­day night by sign­ing Matt Weiser, a 6-5, 241-pound tight end who played col­lege ball at Buf­falo from 2012 to 2015. Safety Adrian McDon­ald was waived to cre­ate a ros­ter spot.… Ja­son Ver­rett con­tin­ues to in­crease his reps as he re­turns from knee surgery, but de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Gus Bradley said the cor­ner­back won’t play Sun­day.

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