The love for Mebane around this blog is palpable. And, why not? He's an eminent run stuffer that mixes in some pass rush. That's a rare and valuable asset on any defense. For the Hawks he's been something of a godsend. After Marcus Tubbs busted his knee in the first quarter of the final preseason game, people could be forgiven for giving up on the 2007 season. Seattle had the third best rush defense in 2005, a widely appreciated difference maker on a team that was 9/10ths the same as Seattle's slew of offense first, paper tiger playoff contenders, that inevitably withered under the postseason brightlights. In 2006, the Hawks D fell to 23rd, and if you isolate just the post-Tubbs Hawks, they were much worse. Well we're not quite back to halcyon days of Tats, Hill and Tubbs clubbing opposing rushers into stuffed dust (the Hawks are currently ranked 10th), but given 5 ½ games of Chuck Darby still haunting those stats, they aren't too far off.
In retrospect, the Hawks crumbling run D wasn't just about losing Tubbs, it was about Darby, too. Darby, despite his toughness, ferocity and shit-brickhouse visage, was not a very good defensive tackle. Where Mebane makes plays every game, Darby was always lost in the pile. Darby was a miscast, underperforming 3 playing a run stuffing 1. And, with all due respect for Darby the man, his time in the NFL is likely at an end. That his injury paved the way for Mebane, the Mebane Era, ahem, the Me!Bane! Era! is an all too frequent example of the Mike Holmgren coaching staff being saved from itself. Like Shaun Alexander finally and fortuitously missing a few games with "suck" and how it paved the way for Maurice Morris' emergence as the starting running back, Darby's injury was, well, whatever the opposite of a Pyrrhic victory would. A reborn defeat? Anyway...
In 2006 the Hawks were 20th against runs behind left tackle and 13th against run up the gut. In 2007, the Hawks are 7th against runs behind left tackle and 8th against runs up the gut. That that improvement is most prominent on runs behind left tackle and up the middle, and that the Hawks were good at stopping runs behind right tackle and around right end last season, and are good at it now, and that the one place the Hawks have declined, nay, plunged into oblivion, is around left end, is a compelling case that a significant part of the Hawks improvement this season can be credited to Mebane. Plus, just watch the guy. I've never seen him fall. I've never seen him end a play more than two yards past the line of scrimmage unless he put himself there. He walks guards like they're on a leash. In his rookie season, Mebane's already a top player at his position. Wild.
So, asking more of Mebane is greedy, but it's also reasonable, almost expected. Bane's just 22. He's not tall, but he's long armed and athletic - it's conceivable he could add weight without losing agility. He's not getting by on smoke and mirrors, his center of gravity is low - his ass is about as big as me curled into a ball. He's a hard worker with major success at a major college. Was a 4 year starter with a near spotless injury history - It's not at all a reach to say he's just tapping his potential. So, no, I don't have any caveats to apply to his play. Any warnings or ifs. No, I just wanted to tell everyone to watch Mebane play this Sunday, if you like line play, he puts on a goddamn good show.