Brandon Mebane acknowledges it’s getting tougher.
“I’m 32,” the Chargers’ defensive tackle said earlier this month. “It’s my 11th year. I’m just trying to maintain. You get older, you lose it. Trying to keep my beach body, everything right.”
That’s not to say that Mebane has lost it all. The veteran defensive lineman is now reunited with defensive coordinator Gus Bradley — who also coached him in Seattle — and said he’s fully healthy again after tearing his biceps last November. Even after a decade in the NFL, Mebane still looks like an effective cog in the middle of the Chargers’ defense.
But for how much longer? Mebane is under contract only through 2018, and fellow starting defensive tackle Corey Liuget has been average at best. Although the Chargers could go in a few different directions through the first two days of the NFL draft, targeting the defensive front wouldn’t be the worst idea.
The Rams are in a slightly different position. They have a bona fide star in Aaron Donald, one of the best players in the NFL, and signed extended defensive tackle Michael Brockers to a three-year extension in September. Still, they could also stand to add more depth behind that duo.
Is this the year for either team to find new talent on the interior defensive line? Alabama’s Jonathan Allen is a potential superstar who can play multiple positions in either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme, but there aren’t many other truly elite prospects.
Still, NFL franchises will have opportunities to unearth productive pieces, especially if they’re in need of a run-stopper rather than an interior pass-rusher.
“I think there is really good depth in the first three or four rounds for the interior D-line,” said NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock.
JONATHAN ALLEN, ALABAMA
Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett is widely expected to lead off the top of the draft next week, but Allen won’t be too far behind.
Named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year as well as a unanimous All-American, Allen played most of his final college season as a 3-4 defensive end. But the 6-foot-3, 286-pound lineman rarely looks out of place at any spot along the defensive front, and is a high-motor prospect who can fit into just about any NFL scheme.
“I’ve been working on my drops, I can drop in the flat if needed,” he said at the NFL combine. “I can do a lot of things and do them equally well for a team.”
Allen won’t likely be available for the Chargers at No. 7 unless other teams are scared off by the mild arthritis in his shoulders, something he insisted won’t affect him until well after his football career.
MALIK MCDOWELL, MICHIGAN STATE
Based purely on his tape and production, McDowell would be a near-lock as a first-round pick. But the 20-year-old has polarized scouts, generating questions about his attitude, work ethic, and play-to-play effort. ESPN analyst Mel Kiper described him earlier this year as “an enigma,” and pointed out the underwhelming…