Welcome to the Seahawks' Sunday dilemma. The Bears' Julius Peppers is big, fast, versatile and tough to stop because opposing teams never know where he'll line up.
RENTON — He will be coming after Matt Hasselbeck on Sunday.
The Seahawks just aren’t entirely sure where defensive end Julius Peppers will be coming from. And coach Lovie Smith wasn’t providing any clues about which side of the line Peppers will be playing during a telephone interview with reporters Wednesday.
“You want me to go over the game plan this week?” Smith asked. “Is that what you’re asking?”
Well, sure. Seattle would certainly be all ears.
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“I’ll just say he probably won’t play the nose position,” Smith said. “But beyond that, I’m not really sure he couldn’t play safety or something if you really asked him to. He’s just that type of athlete. We’re going to try and do a lot of different things with him.”
Could be rookie left tackle Russell Okung facing Peppers one play, and the next it’s Sean Locklear, the right tackle who returned to practice after taking last week off because of a sore knee.
But Seattle will begin every play looking for Peppers, the free-agent prize the Bears signed in the offseason.
“They’re going to put him where they think they need to put him for matchups,” coach Pete Carroll said of Peppers. “We’re going to know where he is. That doesn’t necessarily help, though. Because he’s really, really good.”
Peppers is a 6-foot-7 Swiss Army knife of a defensive player, equipped with a full complement of tools. Strong enough to bull rush yet so agile he played basketball briefly at North Carolina before becoming the No. 2 overall pick in the 2002 NFL draft. He amassed 10 or more sacks in six of his eight seasons in North Carolina.
Seattle’s offensive line is in its second year as the Band-Aid brigade, starting three different line combinations over the first four games. Of the 10 linemen now on the roster, only five were practicing for the Seahawks when training camp began.
Yet for the first three games, Seattle’s pass protection was surprisingly adequate. The Seahawks allowed just five sacks the first three games. Then came the Week 4 clunker in St. Louis. Matt Hasselbeck was sacked four times, one of which led to a turnover.
It was a challenging debut for Okung, who returned from a high ankle sprain Week 4 in St. Louis. He played just over 20 plays before leaving the game in the second quarter.
This week, he’s going to have his hands full as he’s expected to play his first full game.
“This is a classic opportunity for a young guy trying to break in, get started in his career,” Carroll said, “going against one of the best guys in the world.”
This is why Seattle drafted Okung with the sixth overall pick, installing him at the position that is considered the most important spot on the offensive line. Okung is expected to become the anchor of this group, a blocker with length and power capable of neutralizing that outside pass-rush threat.
In Okung’s debut in St. Louis, he was beaten once by a spin move from James Hall.
Carroll said coaches wanted Okung to get some playing time before going up against Peppers.
“At least get on the field, before this challenge comes about,” Carroll said. “We’ll see where he is when we get there.”
That goes for Peppers, too. Before every play, the Seahawks will be looking to see where he lines up.
• CB Marcus Trufant sat out practice with a sore ankle, LB Dexter Davis rested a sore hamstring and TE John Carlson was not at practice, his absence not injury related.
• Deon Butler will start at flanker, the spot vacated when Deion Branch was traded to New England.
Danny O’Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Seahawks @ Chicago, 10 a.m., Ch. 13
|In the bag|
|Only two players have had more sacks than Julius Peppers since he entered the league in 2002:|