Bump: Why Coby Bryant is answer to Seahawks’ nickel CB dilemma

Aug 26, 2023, 9:27 AM

Seattle Seahawks Coby Bryant...

Coby Bryant of the Seattle Seahawks reacts against the Las Vegas Raiders at Lumen Field in 2022. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Seattle Seahawks’ Tariq Woolen is coming off a league-leading six interception rookie campaign. Quandre Diggs is coming off three straight Pro Bowl seasons. Jamal Adams is returning from his injury that limited his 2022 season to one game. And Julian Love, who’s missed just two games in his four-year career, is ready to take the field in a flexible capacity if anyone misses time.

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This, in addition to spending the No. 5 overall pick on another stalwart cornerback, Devon Witherspoon, leaves just one question for the young, but potentially explosive, unit: Who’s going to be the nickel corner starter?

Seattle Sports’ Michael Bumpus has his answer: second-year defensive back Coby Bryant.

“The reason why I say Coby Bryant is because people forget 756 snaps in 2022. Two sacks and four forced fumbles,” said the ex-Seahawk turned analyst for the Pac-12 Network and Seahawks Radio Network. “Cooper Kupp is coming into town Week 1, the best slot receiver in the game. I’d rather have Coby Bryant, who’s been there and who’s done that for a year, go ahead and do his thing.”

Bryant was drafted in the fourth round (109th overall) in last year’s draft, one of 24 defensive backs drafted by Seattle since 2010, the first year head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider were with the franchise. The Seahawks front office has failed to draft a defensive back in only three drafts (2016, 2020, 2021) in that span.

Bumpus grabbed two random teams off the 2023 Seattle Seahawks’ schedule – the Cincinnati Bengals and the Detroit Lions – to see hypothetically how much nickel defense the team needs to prepare to go up against.

“Cincinnati and Detroit both played around 70% when it comes to running an offense that requires a nickel to be out there for the defense,” Bumpus added.

According to NFL Operations, more than 60% of offensive snaps during the 2022 NFL season were in three-receiver sets while nearly 65% of defensive snaps used five defensive backs.

“I understand the potential of Witherspoon. I understand the experience of Artie Burns,” Bumpus said. “I understand Julian Love, but Coby Bryant had a good rookie season. Why not let him build off of that if you’re uncertain what’s going to happen at that nickel spot?”

Despite wanting Bryant to lock down the nickel spot, Bumpus had nothing but praise for Love as he searches for his role amongst the defensive personnel.

“Julian Love is probably the most versatile out of those guys,” Bumpus said. “He’s had time at all positions – safety, corner and at the nickel spot. I think Love should be strictly at safety. When you want to put him in the box and play big, you do that.”

Last year, Love played in eight different defensive positions for the New York Giants before joining Seattle, with high safety (37.3% of the time) as the role he operated in the most.

Seattle is also expected to increase its usage of three-receiver sets on offense following the selection of Jaxon Smith-Njigba in the first round. The team used three-receiver sets at a below-average rate last season.

Listen to the full Four-Down Territory segment from Bump and Stacy in the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post.

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Bump: Why Coby Bryant is answer to Seahawks’ nickel CB dilemma