One of the more dramatic changes Pete Carroll and his coaching staff made from last seasons 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 Sundays 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 dont know how things will fit, you just do what youre 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 Sundays 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 Sundays 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. Its something that weve been working on. We made the transition. Weve gotten bigger with our guys up front. Red had a very good game. Colin Cole played the best hes played since weve been together at any time very consistent.
Seattle also made life difficult for the opposing quarterback, something the Seahawks didnt do much of last season when they ranked 26th in the league in sacks. While Bryants 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, hes rolling, Bryant said of Clemons. Its helping me out to have a guy like that on the edge, because hes the threat, hes the guy thats constantly, constantly, constantly coming, and hes 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.
Weve got a new coach, new energy, and a new scheme, and Im 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 cant 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: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more Seahawks coverage, check out the Seahawks blog at heraldnet.com/seahawksblog
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