The average fan spends a majority of their time watching their two favorite teams – their favorite NFL football team and their fantasy football team. Many fans mainly care about who scores the touchdowns and who makes the game-changing plays on defense that are seen on SportsCenter.
Some fans care about the trenches and its unsung heroes. I am not talking as much about the highly-paid left tackles of the league or the defensive ends who put up the sexy sack numbers. I am talking about the warriors in the middle of the trenches who perform at a high level without much fanfare or eye-popping statistics.
I am talking about men such as Seattle Seahawks center Max Unger and defensive tackle Brandon Mebane.
Unger is the glue in the middle of the Seahawks offensive line. While the fourth-year pro was voted to his first Pro Bowl this past season, he is hardly a household name. All he does is anchor a line that helps Marshawn Lynch gain yards and score touchdowns.
While Lynch is great at gaining yards after contact, he wouldn’t gain as many if he didn’t have Unger in front of him. The contributions of Unger were especially important this past season as the Seahawks had a revolving door of guards who lined up next to him.
It was Unger who provided the much-needed stability in the interior of the offensive line. If the team were to lose him for an extended period of time, people would wonder what was wrong with Lynch and his limited production, as opposed to understanding the value of Unger and that Lynch simply wasn’t in a “slump.”
On the defensive interior, Mebane does not put up earth-shattering sack numbers, but he is the biggest reason why the Seahawks were fifth in the NFL in rushing defense in 2012. He has the rare ability to consistently penetrate into opposing backfields and occupy two offensive linemen while doing it.
While it’s not always him who makes the tackle for a loss, many times it is he who blows up the play so one of his teammates can do it. These attributes make Mebane one of the most important members of the Seahawks defense, even if most people only care about who gets the sacks, tackles, or interceptions.
The next time Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has enough time to throw for a big gain or Lynch is sprung on a long run, there is a good probability that Unger was doing his job. Likewise, if the Seahawks make a crucial goal-line stand or if linebacker Bobby Wagner is able to stuff a running play, there is a good chance that Mebane was doing what he’s supposed to do.
While Unger and Mebane may not score touchdowns, they do help the Seahawks win football games and that is what is most important for them in their profession.