In the 2008 NFL draft, Kentwan Balmer was a consideration for the Seahawks. Now, 2½ seasons later, he’ll start at defensive end against the Giants on Sunday for an injured Red Bryant.
It’s funny how things can play out in the NFL.
In the 2008 draft, the Seahawks were considering selecting defensive lineman Kentwan Balmer with the 28th pick in the first round. But when Balmer went to the San Francisco 49ers at No. 27, the Seahawks opted for defensive end Lawrence Jackson.
Flash forward 2½ seasons, and Balmer is an injury-replacement starter for the Seahawks, while Jackson is now with the Detroit Lions – and has four tackles while being active for four of their seven games.
Balmer, who was acquired in a mid-August trade, started the past three games at defensive tackle because Brandon Mebane has been sidelined with a calf injury. This week, with the Seahawks preparing for Sunday’s game against the New York Giants at Qwest Field, Balmer has moved to defensive end to replace Red Bryant – who was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday and had surgery on Thursday to repair a damaged knee ligament.
Defensive tackle. Defensive end. Starter. Working in the rotation. Helping on special teams. It’s the same versatility that first attracted the Seahawks.
“Actually, Kentwan has been playing better at that spot (end) than inside,” defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. “So I think it will be a good move for him to play consistently there. We’ve been pleasantly surprised with him.”
The loss of Bryant is devastating on several levels, but having Balmer to step in – or slide over – helps.
“We love Red, and I’m sick that he’s not with us,” coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s been such a big part of the start of this program.
“But our guys – (line coach) Danny Quinn has played these guys a lot – so in this instance when it happens it’s pretty normal for these guys to jump in and start playing. It starts off with Kentwan Balmer going to the five-technique spot.”
But it doesn’t stop there. With nose tackle Colin Cole out this week with a sprained ankle, Junior Siavii also will make his first start for the Seahawks since being signed in early September. With Mebane still iffy, Craig Terrill could be the starter against the Giants at the three-technique tackle spot.
But, as Carroll said, it all starts with Balmer – who, at 6 feet 5, 315 pounds, is one inch taller but some 25-30 pounds lighter than Bryant.
“Red Bryant, he’s one of the physical and emotional leaders on this team,” Balmer said. “And he’s a good friend to me. When I came in from San Francisco, he was one of the guys that took me under his wing, just telling me to put that behind me and move forward here.
“And every time I was on the field, he was always trying to coach me up and telling me to put more effort out – you know, always believing in me. This is tough for me, just like it’s tough for him. Because not only did Red mean a lot to the team, he meant a lot to us personally as a friend. He’ll be missed.”
If things had fallen differently on draft day in 2008, Bryant and Balmer would have been members of the same rookie class. Bryant was the Seahawks’ fourth-round pick that year, one of three remaining draft choices from the seven-player group – the others being tight end John Carlson and running back Justin Forsett.
“I’m not going to go out there and disrespect Red, or disrespect this team, by not going out there and putting my best on the field,” Balmer said. “Because I know that’s what he would want.”
Balmer has played already, but this is something else. He’s not only a fulltime starter now, it’s a set position rather than rotating at a couple of spots or filling in when he knows the starter will return.
“It’s a whole different deal now,” Balmer said. “But coach Quinn, he’s a very, very, very, very good coach and I’m sure he’ll have me ready.”
And the difference is? “Things just happen a little faster inside, and they’re a little slower outside,” Balmer said. “The technique is a little different.”
One thing won’t change. “Coach Quinn, he’s a hands-on type of coach and a fiery guy, too,” Balmer said. “So he’ll be on my tail all week. So I’m pretty sure I’ll be ready.”
What Balmer and his defensive mates will face Sunday at Qwest is a Giants offense that ranks No. 3 in the NFL, averaging 388.7 yards per game. A running game that is averaging 145.4 of those yards, to rank fourth in the league, features the 1-2 punch of Ahmad Bradshaw (708 yards and a 5.3-yard average) and 264-pound Brandon Jacobs (4.9-yard average and five touchdowns).
That will be Balmer’s primary focus, because he’ll likely be replaced by a rush-end in passing situations. That’s when the Seahawks will have to contend with Eli Manning (14 touchdown passes, but also 11 interceptions) and the pass-catching trio of Hakeem Nicks (45 receptions, eight TDs), Steve Smith (43 and two) and Mario Manningham (15.7-yard average on 21 receptions and three TDs).
“It’s going to be tough,” Balmer said. “Even with everybody healthy it still would be tough. They’re a very good team, and they’re not a one-dimensional team.
“We’ve just got to be prepared for every phase of the game this week. My number has been called, and all I can do is respond.”