Red Bryant, a 323-pound defensive lineman, was moved from tackle to end during the offseason by the Seahawks and his play in the season opener was a key to Seattle's victory over the 49ers.
RENTON — The biggest difference in Seattle’s defense is easy to see.
Red Bryant weighs 323 pounds, a veritable brontosaurus of a defensive end who consumes sushi rolls by the trayful.
You remember Bryant, right? He is the defensive tackle Seattle chose in the fourth round of the 2008 draft, the one who wears No. 79, a nod to Jacob Green, his father-in-law. Bryant wasn’t invisible the past two years, playing in 10 games, but he wasn’t much of a factor, either.
Seattle moved him a few feet to his left this offseason, sliding him from tackle over to defensive end. Bryant might now be on the edge of the line, but he was hip deep in the middle of Seattle’s defensive success in Week 1 when he had his first sack, forced a fumble and helped keep the 49ers stuck at 49 rushing yards.
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“Offensive tackles are used to going against those 230-, 250-, 270-pound defensive ends,” said Colin Cole, one of Seattle’s starting defensive tackles. “You put somebody that’s got 100 to 70 pounds more than they’re used to, it’s a strength that they’re not used to playing against.
“(Red’s) not a guy that’s weak by any means of the word. Not only is he big, but he’s a strong, physical guy that plays that way. He’s definitely an asset.”
A particularly large asset that Seattle uncovered during a structural shift of the defense after Pete Carroll became coach.
Lawrence Jackson started at defensive end a year ago, weighing 270 pounds. But this offseason, the Seahawks instituted some changes that weren’t necessarily formational but philosophical. The team remained in a 4-3 alignment, but would be based on 3-4 principles. One defensive end, Chris Clemons, is essentially a pass-rush specialist and Bryant, on the other side, is more of a run-stopper.
Seattle spent the offseason culling through the roster, deciding how players fit the new schemes. The results of those evaluations became evident the past couple of weeks in a discard pile that included former starters like Jackson, cornerback Josh Wilson and receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
Bryant has turned out to be a real find, someone who fits the specs of a large run-stopping defensive end to play against the strong side of an opponent’s offensive line.
“The difference for me is just getting the opportunity,” Bryant said.
Bryant’s first chance at the NFL was slowed down by a knee injury he suffered as a rookie in August 2008. Last season, he was a situational tackle, active for some games and not for others depending on whether Seattle wanted his size.
Now at defensive end, Bryant has been a revelation that Carroll has crowed about beginning with the offseason workouts and continuing through training camp.
Sunday against San Francisco, Bryant had the first sack of his career as the Seahawks held the 49ers to just six points, the lowest opening-week total of any team.
“If you can put somebody over there and put up a brick wall,” Cole said, “and take away a lot of the power running game and force them to do something else, force them to run another way, it definitely hurts a game plan.”
At more than 320 pounds, Bryant fills out a uniform, and he’s followed teammate Brandon Mebane’s lead when it comes to eating sushi.
“I actually like it,” Bryant said.
California rolls? Yes, please, Bryant said, and he likes one with salmon, too, though he can’t quite remember the name.
“I really don’t know what I’m eating,” he said, laughing. “I’m just eating.”
In his third season, Bryant is eating up a lot more than just space.
Danny O’Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org