Linebacker Lofa Tatupu offered this blunt assessment of Mebane’s contribution as a third-round pick: “I don’t think we make the playoffs without him,” Tatupu said.
Since then, Mebane’s career has been successful, but has stopped short of stardom.
And that’s a little disappointing because one year ago he was considered a prime candidate for a breakthrough season as he dropped more than 20 pounds and moved from nosetackle to three-technique.
“He’s as lean and mean a fighting machine as he’s ever been,” said former Seahawks president Tim Ruskell before the season.
He started 15 games last season, and he finished with a career-high in tackles, but had only 1.5 sacks — lowest in his three NFL seasons — and there was some question whether he was suited to playing the three-technique or would be better of moving back to nosetackle.
So how did he evaluate it?
“I thought I did well,” Mebane said. “My pass rush, I thought I hesitated with my pass rush a lot. I talked to Cortez Kennedy, and he was just telling me, the main thing that you do just as a defensive tackle, interior, is ‘Getting off the ball is everything.’ That’s one of the main things I took into consideration. To make sure I get off the ball, and then you dictate to the offensive lineman rather than the offensive lineman dictating to you.”
Coach Pete Carroll said the plan is indeed to keep Mebane at the three-technique tackle position.
“We like him,” Carroll said after a minicamp last month. “We just hope that he’ll continue to grow as a player. We want to develop his pass-rush ability. It’s a position where you do really get a lot of good opportunities to rush the passer. We would like him to be effective there. This is the strongest he has ever been. He’s in really good shape. He seems to be very explosively quick right now. There’s different styles of guys that play that spot. If we can use his quickness and his ability to penetrate, he would be a very effective player so we’re hoping that’s going to happen.”
As for the weight, the change in defensive schemes means that Mebane will again be heavier. Not quite the 330 he weighed in 2008, but he’s aiming to start he season at 315. It’s not a huge difference. Mebane weighed 310 pounds when last season began.
Asked what was missing last year when it came to Mebane’s pass rush, Carroll said it’s just a matter of experience.
“I just think he’s young,” Carroll said. “I just think he’s learning. I think he’s putting it all together, and that’s a big emphasis for us now. We need more out of that position in that regard.”