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 move 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 putting in extra time studying film and lifting weights.
And for whatever reason, the Oklahoma State product and No. 6 overall selection in the 2010 draft, does not like to talk about himself, which is why there won’t be any words from him in this story.
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 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 after two injury-marred seasons.
“Russell’s playing real well,” 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.”
Okung’s 2011 season was shortened because of a torn pectoral muscle; he was placed on the season-ending injured reserve list after 12 starts.
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 has been injury free.
Offensive line coach Tom Cable said 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, tied with Dallas offensive tackle Doug Free. But he has faced some of the top pass rushers in the league, 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 opponent’s 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 – and good health – 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 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.”
NEW YORK JETS (3-5) AT SEATTLE (5-4)
1:05 p.m., CenturyLink Field, SEATTLE
TV: Ch. 7. Radio: 710-AM, 97.3-FM.
The series: The Seahawks hold a 9-8 advantage, including a win in the last meeting – 13-3 on Dec. 12, 2008 in Mike Holmgren’s final game at CenturyLink Field. Before that victory, Seattle had lost eight of nine games to the Jets.
What to watch: Seattle coach Pete Carroll said Friday starting outside linebacker K.J. Wright (concussion) and offensive guard James Carpenter (concussion) have been ruled out for today’s game against the Jets, and rookie defensive tackle Greg Scruggs (oblique strain) is doubtful. Second-year pro Mike Morgan will get his first career start in place of Wright, and John Moffitt will start for the second straight week at left guard for Carpenter. ... Defensive tackle Jason Jones (ankle) is expected to play in passing situations after missing games against Detroit and Minnesota. Veteran receiver Braylon Edwards (knee) also is expected to play against the Jets, his former team, after missing two straight games. Edwards started 26 of 28 games in two seasons with the Jets after they secured his services from Cleveland during the 2009 season. As a member of the Jets, Edwards caught 88 passes for 1,445 yards and 11 touchdowns. ... Carroll faces his former quarterback at USC, Mark Sanchez, for the first time in the NFL. Carroll advised against Sanchez entering the draft in 2009, when the Jets traded up to select him with the No. 5 overall pick. However, Carroll has since softened his stance on the issue. “Mark and I get along great,” Carroll said this week. “I follow him every week, and it will be really fun playing against him this week.”
THE PICK: Seahawks, 20-14
The Notre Dame product had two touchdowns last week vs. Minnesota, and should get some chances for big plays with Jets CB Antonio Cromartie matched up against Sidney Rice.
He’s struggled at times in pass protection, and will be a target of Jets’ pass-rush specialist Calvin Pace.
Tacoma native will play on the opposing team of younger brother Isaiah Trufant for the first time in his football career.
Ex-USC player just needs to be assignment correct in his first career start in place of K.J. Wright.
NEW YORK JETS
6 Mark SanchezQB6-2225fourth
Sanchez is responsible for 10 comeback wins in the fourth quarter or overtime since Week 6 of the 2010 season.
A hard runner that the Jets will lean on to try to control the clock.
In his first game playing in front of his family and friends, the Tacoma native and Wilson High graduate should see some time as the fifth defensive back and on special teams.
96 Muhammad WilkersonDE6-4315second
The Temple product – who has just one sack – declared that the Jets will rattle Hawks QB Russell Wilson.email@example.com Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks