By Chris Cluff
While the Seattle Seahawks’ offense has been a tangled mess of banged-up ankles, knees, shoulders, elbows and backs, the power-packed defense largely avoided any big injuries over the first month.
That unit, ranked second in the NFL in yards and points allowed, has started the same 11 players in every game and had not had many significant injuries among backups either.
The only guys who have been consistently injured are cornerback Byron Maxwell and rookie end Greg Scruggs.
But a month of games has started to take its toll. Linebacker Leroy Hill fended off a calf injury last week to make his 20th straight start, and now star tackle Brandon Mebane and nickel corner Marcus Trufant are battling familiar injuries.
Trufant is once again dealing with the back problem that has afflicted him off and on for the last three years. He will be a game-time decision Sunday at Carolina. If Trufant can’t play, Maxwell, who has been hampered by shoulder and hamstring injuries, might see his first significant time of the season.
Mebane missed practice Thursday with a calf injury that reportedly is related to the one that caused him to miss four games in 2010. But he practiced Friday and is probable for the game vs. the Panthers. So, it looks like the starting 11’s streak will remain intact.
As we noted in our player profile earlier this week, Mebane has been a major force for the Seahawks’ second-ranked defense.
“He’s really played well,” coach Pete Carroll told reporters Friday, per The News Tribune. “He came to camp in great shape and just seems to be quicker than ever, more effective. He’s been all over the place, in the backfield causing problems. He’s already got a couple sacks, which is a big improvement for him. But more importantly he’s a big, big factor in the running game because he’s so quick, so tough and can play the whole game and you don’t have to rest him at all, so that’s an improvement (from) the past.”
Former Seahawks linebacker Dave Wyman, one of my co-authors on “Then Zorn Said to Largent,” also touted Mebane’s play.
“The Seahawks defensive tackle turned in one of the most dominant defensive performances I’ve ever seen against the Rams on Sunday. This comes from someone who had a front-row seat for Cortez Kennedy’s Hall of Fame career,” Wyman wrote Thursday for MyNorthwest.
“Mebane timed his get-off on the snap as if he were moving with the ball and spent nearly every play in the Rams’ backfield. He was so disruptive, he almost took the handoff from quarterback Sam Bradford on two occasions and forced a crucial holding penalty on center Robert Turner that negated a touchdown run by Steven Jackson. Mebane finished the day with five tackles, two of which were for a loss.
“As always with those big D-tackles, it’s the things you don’t notice that are so important. He forced double teams to stay with him, freeing up linebackers like K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner to enjoy nice solo tackles without the hassle of fighting off a blocker.”
That tells you everything you need to know about how well Mebane is playing and how important he is to the Seattle defense — and why it’s good the Hawks will have him Sunday.
FINALLY HOLDING THE LINE?
While the defense has started the same 11 in every game, the offense has not been so lucky. In fact, the offensive line alone has had a different lineup in every game.
Last Sunday, James Carpenter stepped in at left guard and Paul McQuistan moved to right guard. Carpenter and left tackle Russell Okung were a very good combination in making room for Marshawn Lynch.
“James played really well,” Carroll told reporters the next day, according to Seahawks.com. “He did a very, very good job. He had a couple errors in the game, which you just about have to anticipate. But we ran a lot to the left. He did a really good job of covering his guy up.”
Now, don’t hold your breath, but the Hawks actually look like they might start the same five for the first time this season. Right guard John Moffitt will miss a second straight game with a knee problem, so McQuistan should remain at right guard.
OUT: OG John Moffitt (knee), DT Jaye Howard (foot).
QUESTIONABLE: CB Marcus Trufant (back).
PROBABLE: DT Brandon Mebane (calf), RB Marshawn Lynch (back).
PUP: CB Walter Thurmond (legs).
IR: DE Dexter Davis (hip), TE Cameron Morrah (toe), RB Vai Tuau (knee).
OUT: OG Mike Pollak (shoulder).
DOUBTFUL: LB Jon Beason (knee), CB Chris Gamble (shoulder).
QUESTIONABLE: C Geoff Hangartner (knee).
PROBABLE: DE Frank Alexander (back), DE Antwan Applewhite (knee), S Colin Jones (shoulder).
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Chris Cluff worked as a sports editor and writer for The Seattle Times for 11 years and has written two books on the Seattle Seahawks. Since leaving the Times, he has written about the Seahawks and Seattle sports for Bleacher Report and the blog he shares with a fellow sportswriter, outsidethepressbox.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com.