Seahawks’ tackle Okung key cog in offense

RENTON — Russell Okung bobs his head to reggae music playing on his iPod.

He fancies himself a good dancer, sometimes coaxing fellow lineman Breno Giacomini and Paul McQuistan to awkwardly dance along to the mesmerizing beat.

He’s thoughtful and introspective, speaking in measured words about topics other than football.

He’s a good teammate, willing to make individual sacrifices, including extra film study and time spent in the weight room, for the greater good of the team.

And for whatever reason, the Oklahoma State product does not like to talk about himself, which is why there won’t be any words in quotes in this story from Seattle’s No. 6 overall selection in the 2010 draft.

But others are more than willing to talk about the good year the third-year pro is putting together. Okung has not given up a sack this season through nine games. Drafted as the immediate replacement to one of the best tackles to ever play the game in Walter Jones, Okung appears to be finally living up to those lofty expectations, putting together a Pro Bowl-caliber performance this season after two, injury-marred seasons.

Okung’s 2011 season was cut due to a torn pectoral muscle; he was placed on the season-ending injured reserve list after 12 starts last season.

The injury forced Okung to miss time because of injuries for a second straight year. In his rookie season, Okung suffered high ankle sprains on both legs that forced him to miss a total of six games.

Okung missed one game this season because of a bone bruise on his left knee, but for the most part he’s been injury free this season.

“Russell’s playing real well,” Seattle center Max Unger said. “I think he’s done a good job. He’s had some pretty tough injuries his first, couple years. But he’s a very talented guy, I don’t think there’s any question about that. And he’s kind of putting it all together right now.”

Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable said that Okung has picked up where he left off at the end of last season.

“Before he got injured, this is how he was playing that last three weeks,” Cable said. “So we’ve been here before. And the nice thing now is to sustain it for the long haul. And that’s who he is – that’s the player he is.

“He’s fortunate now to really be healthy, and be able to go out every week and prepare, play the whole game and do all of those things. I just think he’s who he is, who he’s supposed to be.”

Okung hasn’t been perfect. He has a league-high 10 penalties on the year, tied with Dallas offensive tackle Doug Free. But he’s faced some of the top pass rushers in the league this season, including Minnesota’s Jared Allen, Green Bay’s Clay Matthews and San Francisco’s Justin Smith.

“There’s a lot of good pass rushers lining up out there, and that’s kind of his primary job,” Unger said. “People make a big deal out of that. And if you take a person like that out of the opponents’ game plan and have him do a pretty good job out there, it takes a lot off of the rest of the offense.”

Okung’s solid play has helped create stability along the offensive line. The Seahawks have allowed just three sacks in the last, three games.

“Russell Okung is off to a really good year,” Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s really playing solid and he’s getting better and improving and he’s more confident. You can see that there are more plays where he is demonstrating his power and overwhelming at times by making some big time blocks.

“We can scheme all we want but it really comes down to Russell having to block the guy that’s on that left side. And he’s been doing a fine job of it so far. We’re pleased with the progress we’re making protection wise. We’re pretty solid right now.”

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