One of the odd themes of this offseason is the number of fans who have already written off Red Bryant and have assumed that he’s going to be replaced. I’m struggling to understand the reasoning behind this. Granted, had an off year in 2012 as he struggled in a major foot injury, but after 2 impressive seasons since moving to DE, I’m just not prepared to cast him aside.
In 2010, when Pete Carroll and Dan Quinn first moved Bryant from DE to DT, Bryant was absolutely dominant. His PFF performance rating of +9.4 in just 7 games before his injury meant he was in the top 5 against the run in the entire NFL. The Seahawks defense gave up more than a yard per carry more after Bryant was hurt than before, which is an amazing stat by itself, and shows just how important he was to that defense.
2011 saw a large increase in Bryant’s playing time. He moved inside to DT in the nickel, and the result was a drop in his overall play. Bryant has never been good on the inside, so the lack of DT depth that required that he moved inside makes it tough to see Bryant’s dominance at DE just by looking at his overall data, but his +5.6 against the run is still good enough for 22nd in the league, which is nothing to sneeze at.
And then 2012 happened. Bryant battled a tough plantar fascia injury all season, and struggled to have a positive impact on defense for most of the year. The -7.0 run defense rating was among the worth in the NFL, a fact that likely wont surprise many Seahawks fans who watched the defense play over the 2nd half of the season.
So the question remains, what should we expect to see in 2013? Will Bryant be able to return to his 2010 or 2011 form, or did the injury just exacerbate Bryant’s ever declining form?
The answer, in my my opinion, is neither. It is difficult to imagine Bryant playing as well as he did in 2010 after 2 years of lesser play. Expecting him to again be one of the very best in the NFL might be a bit much to ask for.
I also don’t think that expecting a healthy Bryant to return to his 2011 form is unreasonable in any way. Bryant is just 29 years old, so there’s no reason for anyone to assume that he’s in an age related decline. This should be the prime of his career, and if he’s healthy, his on field performance should reflect that.