Yeah, I don't know much about Alan Branch. I've heard all the stuff about how he fits the hybrid defense and adds a lot of depth. I could try and lie and pretend to know who this guy is, but I don't play that way. Instead, I decided to ask someone who has covered him to find out what the deal is with him. I decided to reach out to Matthew over at Seahawks Addict and Tyler Nickel over at Revenge of the Birds to see how Branch's tenure went with his former teams. First up is the Seahawks POV..
1) What are his strengths and weaknesses? Can you talk about his play when it came to rush defense and pass defense?
He's strongest against the run and usually does a good job of clogging running lanes and stopping ball carriers, but he had a few games where he couldn't seem to hold the point of attack if his life depended on it. That said, whenever he wasn't on the field opposing offenses had a lot of success running at whoever happened to be filling in for him on the defensive line.
Against the pass, he's average. He can force the pocket to collapse and sometimes he gets a hand up and deflects a pass or two, but he isn't fast enough to get to the quarterback more than a couple of times per season (he had just 3 sacks and 3 QB hits in 2011 and 1 sack and 5 QB hits in 2012).
So yeah, he isn't the second coming of Cortez Kennedy or anything, but he's better than average.
2) The Bills are planning on running a hybrid defense that will be blitzing a ton (Former Def coordinator for the Jets). So, they will be giving a lot of 3-4 and 4-3 looks, how do you see Branch fitting in that defense?
Actually, he's been playing in a hybrid 4-3/3-4 defense for the last two years. Pete Carroll's defense uses a 4-3 under as its base configuration, but three of those d-line positions are manned by bigger run-stuffing DLs while the fourth is a smaller, faster, "Leo" DE (played by Chris Clemons) that gets moved around a bit. It owes a lot to George Seifert's "Elephant" defense and Monte Kiffin's Tampa-2 ( he worked with Kiffin for most of the 80s and he was Seifert's defensive coordinator in '95 and '96).
In that defense, Branch was asked to effectively be a 3-4 DE who lined up as a 4-3 DT in the 3-tech spot. Usually, he was in for first and second down, then came out on third down when DC Gus Bradley sent in the pass-rush nickel d-line. Really, he should be fine as long as the Bills don't expect him to be their big man in the middle. The Cardinals originally drafted him in '07 to be the nose tackle in their 3-4 defense, and he flat-out sucked at that position. He didn't start to play well for them until they moved him over to defensive end.
3) How do you guys feel about losing him?
Indifferent, honestly. He was good, but not irreplaceable. It'd be a different story if he had been better at rushing the passer, but as things stand there are plenty of DTs out there who can match his production in Seattle's defense at a fraction of the cost. I think everyone around here is far more interested in daydreaming about the damage Michael Bennett is going to do this fall in a Seahawks uniform.
4) What sort of player will the Bills be getting?
Buffalo just signed a hard-working guy who plays full-speed on every down and doesn't show up on the police blotter when he isn't on the field. He seemed to get along with his teammates and didn't cause problems in the locker room. He's just one of those solid guys who does his job reasonably well while the bigger talents are busy making headlines.
5) The Bills have talent on their defensive line with the likes of Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus and Mario Williams. How will that talent make Branch a better player?
I think he's seen as a small disappointment by many Seahawks fans because he didn't get to the QB very often, but that's mainly because we've been without a strong pass-rushing 3-tech for years now. With all that other talent around him, Branch should be able to just do his thing without all the extra pressure to rack up sacks.
6 Can you tell us something about him that we don't know about? Personality? Hobbies? Scams?
Uh, he was a starter on his high school basketball team? Like I said, the guy has spent little to no time in the media spotlight, so there isn't really much out there about his personal business.
1) What are his strengths and weaknesses?
I would say that as a 4-3 DT, Branch can be effective both as a pass rusher and a run defender. Although he doesn't register a ton of sacks, he creates pressure up the middle at a very important position and can cause mayhem in pockets. I often found myself questioning his motor and motivation at times while he was with the Cardinals, though. It seems he may have finally gotten "it" once he moved to Seattle.
2) Can you talk about his play when it came to rush defense and pass defense?
Again, he plays both well, but it depends on whether or not he feels like taking the play off. I could see him being a nice rotation player in Buffalo.
3) For being a former 2nd round pick, he only started three games for you guys. That seems like bust material. Am I wrong?
Nope, you're not. He just didn't fit in the 3-4 defense either as a defensive end or a nose tackle. Looking back, drafting him in the 2nd round was very ill-planned move by the front office.
4) Talk to me about his time in Arizona? Did it work out? Did you guys miss him?
It didn't work out and we don't really miss him. He played well in his final year here, but that was likely because it was a contract year for him and he wanted to get paid. The Seahawks gave him the money, the Cards didn't. Move on.