Seahawks lost Mebane at the worst time

Seahawks rush defenseThe Seahawks’ defense lost Brandon Mebane at just about the worst possible time.

The nose tackle had
anchored one of the league’s top run
defenses, but now the Hawks will have to
proceed without him just as they prepare for a stretch that includes some of the toughest rushing offenses on their schedule.

With Mebane out for the season with a torn hamstring, the Hawks will have to get more out of 29-year-old Tony McDaniel and 34-year-old Kevin Williams, plus second-year tackle Jordan Hill.

With Greg Scruggs and Cassius Marsh already out for the season, the Hawks are suddenly very thin on the D-line. (Five of the 12 players on injured reserve are defensive linemen.)

Play time will increase drastically for McDaniel, Williams and Hill, who have played in 36.9 percent (McDaniel), 40.7 percent (Williams) and 30.9 percent (Hill) of the plays so far this season. Mebane had played 47.7 percent of the snaps — most on the defensive line behind Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril.

“We expect a real active rotation and we will move those guys in and out,” coach Pete Carroll said of the plan to replace Mebane.

Neither Carroll nor Williams is concerned about the impending increase in snaps for the veteran.

“He’s handled everything we’ve done fine,” Carroll said. “He hasn’t needed any extra attention in practice. He has no ailments coming up from the past or any wear-down factors right now. For this late in the season, he’s in as good of shape as he has probably ever been, and he’s a really good stout, tough football player. He will give us great play in there. It will be a little bit different style, much different makeup size-wise and all, but he has great experience and he will adapt to this, I think, really well.”

“It’s big shoes to fill,” Williams said. “I mean, you guys have seen Bane play the last eight years and you know the things that he does up front, and it’s tough. I hate to get increased reps because of that situation, but they brought me in to help the D-line play and me, Tony and Jordan (are) going to have to take that role and try to fill those shoes.”

With Mebane, the Hawks are fourth in rushing yards allowed, giving up just 79.8 per game. They are tied for best in the league in average gain per rush (3.2).

They have held four teams under 60 rushing yards and eight under 4.0 per carry, including four under 3.0.

But the Hawks also have faced just one good rushing team; the Dallas Cowboys rank second to the Seahawks’ offense in the NFL. The rest of Seattle’s opponents rank in the bottom half of the league.

That will change starting this week, as they face the Kansas City Chiefs’ fifth-ranked running game. Four of the final seven games are against teams in the top 13.

Mebane has always played very well, but Carroll repeatedly had declared this to be his best season since the coach arrived in 2010.

“There is nobody like Mebane,” Carroll said this week. “He’s a very unique player. He’s had, I think, the best season he’s had since he’s we’ve been here to this point — most consistent, best factor. So that’s a big hit to take. But our guys that go in play good football too, so we will expect them to play up and maintain the level.”

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