Despite the constant ragging on the now miserable Seahawks defense, it was not always this way. Only one team in the NFL was better at defending the run the first six games of 2010. We all know the story by now. Colin Cole and Red Bryant were injured in the team's seventh game and Brandon Mebane missed some time as well. It became clear in the weeks that followed this was not a defense that could afford to lose half of its defense line.
Most acknowledge Bryant's unique role in stopping the run. Few 320 lb men play defensive end, but Bryant played it like a boulder in a raging river, with blockers flowing off him in all directions. Colin Cole, though, was the forgotten man. He did leave that Raiders game with 11 more tackles than Bryant had, and recorded a whopping seven tackles the week prior against Arizona. Most interior lineman, however, are not judged by tackles. Since both men got injured the same week, it's hard to be certain whose absence had a bigger impact on the defense.
This week, we get to find out. Cole will be back in the lineup with Mebane next to him. There is talk that backup nose tackle Junior Siavii will slide over to Bryant's defensive end position on occasion. It should not take long to figure out if Cole is the difference make every Seahawks fan hopes he can be. Do we still see a 4.0+ YPC for the opposing team? Are linebackers getting smothered by guards, or do they have a chance to shoot gaps?
If the Seahawks defense looks improved on Sunday, it will say a lot about one man. If the defense looks just as vulnerable against the run as they have the previous few weeks, we'll know Bryant is even more valuable than the most bullish fans could have thought.