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2006 Season Review: Marcus Tubbs

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Out from a fevered haze, powered by generic Nyquil, I return, ready for some serious blogging. But first, let us all take a moment to thank the "moonshine of medicine" and all the natural sleep it has spared us.

Marcus Tubbs: In 2005 Tubbs was the perfect big-ugly/quick-footed pass rusher hybrid for Marshall's defense. Tubbs, at his best, is a dominating two-gap defender. His size and strength allows him to collapse the pocket, stifle running lanes and free up the linebackers to make plays. While his speed, athleticism and high-motor allowed him to record 5.5 sacks and 2 stuffs.

2006 was largely a lost season for the big man from Texas. Even before he was lost for the season in week 8, he was hampered by pain. It's debatable whether his loss effected Seattle's rush defense at all. His 7 tackles and .5 sacks are far from eye-popping. Let's see just how Seattle performed against the run as a team pre and post Tubbs' departure.

The Tubbs Effect?

Period Rushes per First Down vs. Average Yard per Rush vs. Average
Weeks 1-6 93% 85%
Weeks 7-17 93% 118%

The first thing you notice is that Seattle was slightly below average in preventing rushes from converting first downs. This fact didn't change when Tubbs left--in fact the consistency is pretty surprising. Where they fell apart is in yards per rush versus average. That number is heavily inflated by five rushes (three coming from Frank Gore) that went 40 or more yards. Without those, the opponents' YPR drops from 5.02 to 4.12. Now, I'm not pretending those rushes didn't happen, but the question is how does Tubbs prevent long rushes?

The simplest explanation is that as a member of the defensive line Tubbs has no control over rushes that exceed ten yards, but that's not the whole truth. While Tubbs' ability to tackle more than 10 yards down the field is doubtful, his presence does keep blockers off of the linebackers. It would seem Tubbs' main contribution to the run game is to simply keep blockers occupied. It wasn't hard to see Lofa Tatupu getting lost in traffic on Chester Taylor's explosive 95 yarder in week 7, and behind him only the Hawks secondary remained. It's no surprise then, that those five rushes were by teams with top fullbacks. Lorenzo Neal, Moran Norris and Jim Kleinsasser are all top run blockers who excel at neutralizing linebackers. Tubbs presence may not be vital in short yardage, but his ability to contain offensive blockers allows our linebackers to make plays and prevent long gains.

The real question for Tubbs is not how well he played in 2006, but if he'll play in 2007. Tubbs received microfracture knee surgery in November, and has stated that he hopes to be ready by July. The timetable for recovery begins at 4 months, but can potentially take years. Some players return with few ill-effects, like DeShaun Foster, for others it ends their career, like Terrell Davis. Tubbs has age on his side (25), but it's impossible to know the extent of the cartilage damage (Tubbs and the Hawks would never in a million years make that information public) or if his body will react positively to the procedure. Tubbs can afford to lose some top-end speed, but must be able to drive with his legs without the excruciating pain of bone on bone contact. His presence is essential to Seattle stopping game breaking runs in 2007.