Friday, January 24, 2014

SUPER BOWL: A Thought On Red Bryant's Role Versus Denver


Red Bryant has had an uneven career in Seattle. A disappointment at defensive tackle, he was a revelation after being moved to the 5-technique defensive end by then defensive line coach Dan Quinn in 2010. He battled injuries that year, but dominated when on the field. His finest season was in 2011 when he stayed healthy and earned a lucrative free agent contract. His season last year was again impacted by health issues, but he rebounded with another great year this season. He is a key part of the Seahawks run defense. He is a central leadership figure on the team. And he may not play as much in the Super Bowl.
Seattle uses a heavy rotation along the defensive line. Bryant, Brandon Mebane, Clinton McDonald, Michael Bennett, Chris Clemons, Tony McDaniel, and Cliff Avril, all get substantial snaps. Seattle does not run a very exotic defensive system. Most offenses have a decent idea what Seattle is going to play. Where they lack in scheme diversity, they make up for in player diversity.

Bryant and Avril play the same position, but they do not play it the same way. Bryant will tend to see more early down snaps when the running game is more likely. Avril will come in on passing situations. A player like Peyton Manning could very well decide that he likes the match-up with a certain group of Seahawks personnel on the field, and choose to lock them in with no-huddle, where substitutions are not allowed. Seattle loses some of its ability to specialize in that case, and would likely make them even more predictable.

Quinn and Pete Carroll could decide to play nickel defense the whole way, which would include Avril in place of Bryant. But Avril could become a liability versus the run if overused. Instead, we may see liberal use of Bennett at 5-tech end. He is the best combination of pass rush and run stuffer of the options available, and would keep Manning from exploiting either a weak pass rusher or a weak run stopper.

Taking a guy like Bryant out of the game would be unpleasant for any number of reasons. Primarily, this Denver offense needs to have an effective running game, and Bryant would be a big part of shutting that down. Do not expect the Seahawks to have Bryant sitting on the sideline from the jump, but do not be surprised to see Bennett get some additional snaps on that side of the line.

Carroll is a master of putting his players in the best position for success each week. Bryant's most successful position may be standing next to Carroll next Sunday.

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