With free agency about to begin, the Seahawks made sure one of their key players will be back in 2016, agreeing to terms with defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin on a three-year contract.
Rubin, who signed with Seattle last offseason after spending his first seven seasons with Cleveland, took over the starting role as the three-technique defensive tackle, and went on to start all 16 games alongside nose tackle Brandon Mebane.
Those two were a big reason why the Seahawks led the NFL in run defense, allowing 81.5 rushing yards per game. But what really stood out about Rubin, and led to praise from head coach Pete Carroll all season long, wasn't just his ability to be stout at the point of attack, but also his a willingness and ability to chase plays and make things happen well away from the line of scrimmage, traits not always found in 300-plus pound linemen. That was never more evident than in Seattle's playoff win over Minnesota when Rubin was the one to recover an Adrian Peterson fumble on the sideline well beyond the line of scrimmage.
"He's unique," Carroll said after that Minnesota win. "I think it really stands out, because he's a big, strong, tough football player that he's just got the mentality to take off and run. Most guys don't run like that. We pride ourselves on pursuit, as everybody does, but when you see your biggest guys inside running like that, it fires everybody up. I promise you (defensive coordinator Kris Richard) showed his plays in the film room over and over again today, and everybody's cheering for him and all that. And then when he gets that big fumble recovery, which is a huge play in the game initiated by Kam (Chancellor), those guys are really fired up for him. He inspires guys, so that's a big deal."
Since Carroll and general manager John Schneider took over the Seahawks in 2010, they have had several defensive tackles starting alongside Mebane, from Colin Cole to Alan Branch and Tony McDaniel, but in Rubin they found a player they wanted to lock up on a long-term basis.
"You can't move the dude, and he pursues the football really well," Carroll said on 710 ESPN Seattle late last season. "I think he's been the most effective guy playing three-technique for us that we've had, and most consistent. He just won't budge. The harder it gets, the tougher he gets, and the more he isn't going to move anywhere."
Rubin recorded 36 tackles last season, a number that doesn't come close to showing his impact on the defense, two sacks and an interception. He also had that crucial fourth-quarter fumble recovery to help set up the go-ahead score in Seattle's playoff victory at Minnesota.