RENTON, Wash. – By the time Seattle’s Red Bryant lost his cool against Cleveland, he’d already made an impression.
That’s easy to do as a 6-foot-4, 330-pound run-stuffing defensive end. But throw in a pair of blocked field goals and last Sunday was one of the finest games of Bryant’s career.
That is, until the final moments, when Bryant lost his composure and was penalized and ejected for head-butting Cleveland’s Alex Smith.
The penalty gave the Browns an automatic first down, and allowed them to run out the clock in a 6-3 victory.
Bryant’s play is a big reason that the Seahawks have one of the best run defenses in the league heading into Sunday’s game against Cincinnati. He just needs to work on controlling his emotions.
“I lost my cool, just one of those situations,” Bryant said. “You’ve always got to stay in control, but me and the tight end were going at it all day, and on that particular play, he got the best of me, and I lost my cool.”
The coaches talked to him after the game about maintaining his composure, but the other thing they want Bryant to keep is his newly found special teams playmaking skill.
“I feel like the special teams coaches, they’ve got a great scheme, and I just had a little knack for it on Sunday,” he said.
Bryant has steadily improved as a run-stopper since he was selected by Seattle in the fourth round of the 2008 NFL draft.
He played different defensive tackle positions in college and was a bit of a misfit under head coaches Mike Holmgren and Jim Mora in 2008 and 2009. It wasn’t until Pete Carroll arrived with his own defensive concepts in 2010 that the light went on.
“I feel that (Coach Carroll) just gave me a great opportunity to contribute. Under Coach Holmgren and Coach Mora, I would have had an opportunity to contribute, but Coach Carroll is a defensive-minded coach, and he found a way to utilize me. I’m extremely grateful for that,” Bryant said.
Bryant’s size makes him an unusual fit for the end position, and when the switch was first made, he was as surprised as anyone.
“You think of ends like (Chris Clemons) or Raheem (Brock), guys who are extremely quick and able to get to the quarterback,” Bryant said. “In my case, I feel that I’m more of a space-eater. I can take on blocks and clog up the running lanes and things of that nature. So, when they asked me to move to end, I thought I was about to get cut. But it fit right into my style of play, and what they asked me to do.”
Under Carroll and former defensive line coach Dan Quinn, Bryant’s impact was immediate. The Seahawks spent the first half of the 2010 season with one of the NFL’s best run defenses. But when Bryant went down for the season, the difference was stark as opponents’ rushing averages jumped.
Now that Bryant’s healthy and playing well again, the Seahawks lead the NFL, giving up just 3.1 yards per carry.
Bryant said the end position was less of an adjustment than he imagined, making his progression easier.
“It was just getting used to going up against bigger linemen. Most right tackles weigh about 340 pounds, so that was different. Sometimes this year, I’ll line up on the tight end, and I feel I have an advantage because of my size – most tight ends are 260 and under,” Bryant said.
“I think he’s just playing with a lot of confidence right now,” Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. “At first, he was trying to find out who he was, and how he could play. We would try and move him around. And then, last year when Pete came, he just said, ‘Let’s just make a commitment to play him (at end) – it’s what we need there. Let’s just see how he does.’ ”