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Reviving Red

Red Bryant is a reclamation project. When he’s off, he looks unfixable – not even scraping pro-caliber. When he’s on, he looks interesting, talented, but no where as good as you’d expect. His development is instantly the story of the preseason. Bryant is either going to get it, take to Seattle’s coaching and begin to translate some of his immense talent into production or he’s going to flop. Off the roster, flop.

I started by watching Bryant and Texas A&M duke it out with Texas. I was aghast. Bryant looked just awful. He was slow, slow off the snap, slow in stunts and slow to the ball carrier, the few times he was anywhere near the ball carrier. I couldn’t believe my eyes. “Why would any team draft Bryant?” I thought, and especially “Why would a team that puts so much stake in production draft Bryant?” He was weak, washed out by single blocks, incapable of splitting double teams and generally outclassed by his linemates, college fodder like Henry Smith and Kellen Heard. Most troubling, though, he was lazy, giving up if losing off the snap, coasting against double teams and eventually off the field entirely.

God bless condensed games. Second, I watched the Aggies battle the Oklahoma Sooners. The Sooners have a decent offensive line, headlined by money left guard Duke Robinson. Bryant plays primarily out of the 3, catawampus to Robinson. Suddenly, Bryant is alive. Showing a cool shake and bake stutter step, getting inside and outside advantage and disrupting plays. He’s holding or splitting double teams, firing off the snap, fighting his way back into plays and looking for once like an NFL prospect. As the game wore on, and the score grew lopsided, Bryant’s fire sputtered. One play on, two plays off. Two plays off, one series on the sideline. But my hope was rekindled.

Onto Miami. Bryant starts strong but fades. By halftime, Miami is up 24-0. Masquerading as an Aggies fan, I must say, what an awful, joyless and discouraging team. Their top talent, presumably Martellus Bennett, has all the pizzazz of Randy McMichael and jumps like he’s attached to the turf by rubber bands. I’m starting to see a story develop. The team captain, the NFL talent on a team full of scrubs, reeled in for his senior season, because of loyalty, duty, a degree and one more shot at the top with the boys. Crushed. By an absent coach and barely mediocre team.

So I thought I’d hop back to the past. Texas A&M’s second contest and first against a team worth a damn, Fresno State. Fresno finished 13th in unadjusted offensive FEI and calls the line its strength. The Aggies entered 1-0 after stomping a big 38-7 bootprint into Montana State. “We’re a contender!" spirit soaring, Coach Fran not yet depantsed, huzzah! And huzzah is right, because Bryant looks awesome: Exploding single blocks, cleaving doubles, working the right defensive end on three man fronts and playing like a pro prospect among fodder, scrubs and jobbers. Bryant finished with his lone big statistical showing of the season: 6.5 total tackles, 1 solo tackle for a loss and 1 sack.

I started this morning intending to write a scouting report, but 6 hours and 4 condensed games later, I realize it would be pointless. The player Bryant is and the player that Bryant could be do not exist in the same dimension. One is cripplingly inconsistent and so bad when he’s off the Arena League would scoff. That one limped from a failed season, through an embarrassing showing at the Senior Bowl (most noteworthy for a macho slapfest with Chris Williams) and into the combine, where the man who should have killed the bench posted just 20. The other better show up fast at mini-camp. The Seattle Seahawks have a reclamation project on their hands. One with a huge frame, silly quicks and once-upon-a-time rare upside. Over the next few months, Bryant is worth scouring the local fish wraps for. What are the coaches saying? Is John Marshall sanguine, Dwaine Board impressed, is everyone hush-hush or a-gush about LoJack or Owen Schmitt? And when the preseason comes, good news or bad, I’ll be glued to the tube, hoping Joseph “Red” Bryant has begun that long path back to being a top defensive tackle, because, man, that would be something to see.