As if on cue, Michael Boulware showed why he will be in the Seahawks' starting lineup Sunday. The rookie strong safety intercepted a deep pass down the left sideline from backup...

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KIRKLAND — As if on cue, Michael Boulware showed why he will be in the Seahawks’ starting lineup Sunday.


The rookie strong safety intercepted a deep pass down the left sideline from backup quarterback Trent Dilfer during yesterday’s practice, jumping to tip the ball with both hands and catching it while falling to the turf.


Boulware, a second-round draft pick earlier this year, has already shown a penchant for the big play. He has four interceptions as a reserve, tied for the most among NFL rookies. He has saved two games and won a third for Seattle with interceptions, returning one for the winning touchdown against the Miami Dolphins on Nov. 21.


And now, after 12 games coming off the bench, his time has come. Yesterday, coach Mike Holmgren named Boulware the starter at strong safety for this week’s game at Minnesota.


“Now I think it’s time to do this,” Holmgren said. “I think we could use all the playmakers we can get out there right now. He has earned the right to take a crack at this. He really has.”


Boulware replaces an injured and struggling Terreal Bierria, who has had difficulty in pass coverage. Bierria, a third-year player who had started all 12 games this season, has a bad back and a sore knee and did not practice yesterday. He is questionable to play on Sunday.


Holmgren said he probably would have made the change even if Bierria were healthy.


“It’s close, but (it’s) more Michael ready than a punishment for Terreal,” the coach said, adding that Bierria has “done some really good things, and he’s been the victim of a couple things. That’s not unusual for a first-time starter.”


The move to start Boulware apparently completes the process of converting him from college outside linebacker to professional safety. He’ll open against one of the NFL’s top offenses.


“It’s going to be a great challenge,” Boulware said. “It’s like a dream come true. But at the same time, it’s almost a curse as well, because I know they’re going to be coming after me.”


Boulware has seen his most extensive playing time in the nickel defense.


“Any other time he’s on the field, he’s out there making plays and getting it done, and I expect nothing different,” cornerback Marcus Trufant said.


José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or jromero@seattletimes.com