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Seahawks taking advantage of Coby Bryant’s versatility to keep him on the field

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Coby Bryant punches the ball out of Detroit Lions’ Kalif Raymonds hands on Oct. 2 at Ford Field in Detroit.  (Associated Press)

RENTON, Wash. – Minnesota Vikings receiver Jalen Reagor could be excused for not knowing where Coby Bryant was coming from Thursday night when Bryant leveled the kind of boom most associated with the legion that played for the Seahawks a decade ago.

Bryant’s right-shoulder bomb that flattened Reagor drew a flag before the officials decided otherwise.

“Just playing fast and being physical,” Bryant said of the play.

The play was emblematic of the playmaking and physicality the Seahawks like about Bryant, a second-year defensive back from the University of Cincinnati.

The only question is where to play him, as the Seahawks have used him at both cornerback and safety throughout training camp, giving reason for Reagor and the Vikings to have little clue where he might be lining up.

“Like I told you earlier in the week, he’s doing everything,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said after the game.

The Seahawks are attempting to keep him on the field after making some moves this offseason that have made Bryant appear as the odd man out.

Bryant, the 109th overall pick in 2022 after winning the Jim Thorpe Award as the best defensive back in college football, was the Seahawks’ primary nickel corner the last 16 games of 2022 after an injury to veteran Justin Coleman.

He moved to that spot after it became apparent early in camp that he was not likely to wrest a spot away from the players who had emerged as the starting outside corners – fellow rookie Riq Woolen and Michael Jackson.

Bryant ended up playing 765 snaps, or 65%, and forced four fumbles in the first six games, tying for third in the NFL.

“Anybody who can take the ball away from the opponent, we are going to find ways for him to be on the field,” defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt said recently.

The Seahawks made that more challenging for themselves when they drafted Devon Witherspoon with the fifth overall pick in April, then decided during minicamp to begin using him at the nickel spot – with Bryant leaving something of an opening after missing much of the offseason program with a toe injury.

The Seahawks liked enough of how Witherspoon played at the nickel and pairing him with Woolen, Jackson and Tre Brown on the outside that they told Bryant a day before training camp began that they’d like to begin playing him some at safety.

Bryant said that was fine with him.

“It’s not my first time playing safety,” he said. “I played safety my freshman year in college and, obviously, they have the respect for me to allow me to play safety. I’m getting comfortable, for sure.”

On paper there isn’t a lot of opportunity there, with the Seahawks signing Julian Love in the offseason to fill in as a starter at safety alongside Quandre Diggs for as long as Jamal Adams is out, and with plans to use all three when Adams is healthy.

If Bryant is distressed by any of this, he doesn’t let on.

“Extremely comfortable,” Bryant said of playing safety.

He showed that Thursday night with his hit on Reagor among four tackles on 39 snaps.

“I thought that Coby did really well,” Carroll said Saturday. “Remember the mock game, Coby played really well also. He’s really getting comfortable playing back there on the back end. He’s been really physical. Noticeably one of the best hitters out there. I’m really pleased to see that coming from the corner spot and the nickel spot. That’s a good statement he’s made. He’s really serious about getting everything in order.”

What Bryant has also been is durable.

With Witherspoon out since Monday with a hamstring injury – and no clear ETA for when he will return – Bryant has been working as the nickel corner with the starting defense in recent practices as well as at safety. Bryant played only safety against the Vikings as the Seahawks kept their defensive scheme under wraps, mostly staying in a base formation.

Durability and versatility go a long way in the NFL, as does physicality.

“As a man, you definitely want to be physical,” Bryant said. “The positions that I play, you definitely want to be physical and make plays, make tackles. A DB that can tackle is valuable for sure.”

In appearing to further state that point, Bryant showed up to his news conference following the Vikings game wearing a Legion of Boom T-shirt.

“He’s just trying to put it together and figure it out,” Carroll said.

So, it appears, are the Seahawks with Bryant, knowing he can be a productive player at a number of different spots. But Bryant doesn’t appear to be in a position to take over as the starter at any of them.

Still, for as long as Witherspoon is out – he wasn’t visible on the field during Sunday’s practice – Bryant has a role as the nickel.

If nothing else, he also appears to have earned the Seahawks’ admiration for his willingness to adapt.

“He’s been a corner in his brain for a long time, so he’s still going to play corner,” Carroll said. “We’re going to come back to that, but we’re going to make sure we really focus on the safety spot because that’s the new spot. As we go forward, we know that he can play corner for us and the nickel for us and the dime spot. He’s got everything under his belt. He’s a really valuable player.”