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Published: Friday, September 17, 2010, 12:01 a.m.

Seahawks’ D turns heads

New-look defensive line helped Seattle’s defense shut down the 49ers

  • A position switch has helped make Seahawks defensive lineman Red Bryant the most improved player on Seattle’s defense, according to head coach Pete Ca...

    Jim Bryant / Associated Press

    A position switch has helped make Seahawks defensive lineman Red Bryant the most improved player on Seattle’s defense, according to head coach Pete Carroll.

RENTON — So far anyway, a changed line is a better line for the Seahawks defense.
One of the more dramatic changes Pete Carroll and his coaching staff made from last season’s defense was to create a new-look defensive line that bulked up on one side (Red Bryant) and slimmed down, getting faster on the other (Chris Clemons).
The idea behind the change was that Bryant, a 323-pound converted defensive tackle, could occupy blockers on the strong side — the side where the tight end lines up — freeing Clemons up to be a disruptive pass rusher. And while the reviews in training camp came back positive from the coaching staff, no one had seen it in a game that counted before last Sunday’s season opener against the 49ers.
And granted, one game is way too small of a sample size to know anything definitive, but so far the new-look line looks like a unit that can help the Seahawks improve on defense in 2010.
“You don’t know how things will fit, you just do what you’re supposed to do on a daily basis and try to make yourself stout in the scheme and see how things fit,” defensive tackle Colin Cole said. “Obviously when coach Carroll got here, he had a vision, and I think the vision is coming to fruition.”
In Sunday’s 31-6 victory over the 49ers, the line played a big part in holding San Francisco running back Frank Gore to 38 yards on 17 carries. In his previous nine games against Seattle, Gore averaged 6.16 yards per carry. In Sunday’s opener, he averaged 2.2.
Particularly important for Seattle was the ability to stop the run without dedicating too many resources to bottling up Gore. By not committing a bunch of extra defenders to the run, the Seahawks could also be effective in the passing game, which helped lead to a pair of interceptions and an overall rough day for 49ers quarterback Alex Smith.
“We played really good base defense is really what happened,” Carroll said. “It’s something that we’ve been working on. We made the transition. We’ve gotten bigger with our guys up front. Red had a very good game. Colin Cole played the best he’s played since we’ve been together at any time — very consistent.”
Seattle also made life difficult for the opposing quarterback, something the Seahawks didn’t do much of last season when they ranked 26th in the league in sacks. While Bryant’s main function is to stop the run, he did have a sack on Smith that caused a fumble, and defensive end/outside linebacker Dexter Davis also had a sack. More important than those two sacks, however, were the 11 hits the Seahawks managed on Smith, including a team-high four by Clemons.
“Every time we turn on the film, he’s rolling,” Bryant said of Clemons. “It’s helping me out to have a guy like that on the edge, because he’s the threat, he’s the guy that’s constantly, constantly, constantly coming, and he’s opening up for the rest of us.”
Bryant, meanwhile, is the player that Carroll frequently has called the most improved on defense. After playing just 10 games in his first two seasons, starting one, he is now a key part of a defense that, after one game anyway, is turning some heads.
“We’ve got a new coach, new energy, and a new scheme, and I’m just excited to be a part of it,” said Bryant, whose sack of Smith was the first in his NFL career.
But ultimately, this was only the beginning. After two years of losing and sub-par defense, the Seahawks defensive linemen, like everyone else on the team, know that there is still plenty of work to be done.
“Now this is only the first week of the NFL season, we can’t crown ourselves as anything just yet,” Cole said. “We just have to continue to work, continue to try to be successful, and continue to put our best possible effort out there each and every week.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com. For more Seahawks coverage, check out the Seahawks blog at heraldnet.com/seahawksblog
Story tags » Seahawks

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