It's a good thing for the Sea-hawks that team doctors diagnosed outside linebacker Chad Brown's asthma early in the season and prescribed an effective treatment. As the designated rover in Seattle's blitz-happy Okie defense, Brown can't afford to be short of breath.
In the scheme installed by first-year linebackers coach Jim Johnson, Brown might be asked to rush the passer, serve as a contain man or cover the primary receiver. After getting 13 sacks and making the Pro Bowl as an Okie linebacker in 1996, his last season with the Steelers, Brown signed as a free agent with Seattle. "It was frustrating last season because I was always lined up at right defensive end in the nickel package, and everyone knew where I was going to shoot the gap," says Brown, who fought through repeated double teams in '97 to lead the Seahawks with 104 tackles and finish with 6� sacks. "I'm still the guy who gets all the attention, but now the offense doesn't know where I'm going to be or what I'll do."
Seattle defensive coordinator Greg McMackin calls for the Okie—a variation of the scheme originally run at the University of Oklahoma—in passing situations, using a three-man front with two linebackers and six defensive backs. Brown positions himself at tackle or end just before the snap. The offense must guess whether Brown will blitz or is merely a decoy for fellow linebacker Darrin Smith. On some occasions Brown and Smith will rush the passer. Or Brown might drop into coverage while Smith and a defensive back blitz. In four starts leading up to Sunday's 31-18 loss to the Raiders, Brown had 48 tackles and three sacks.
In passing situations against Oakland, Brown often stuck around the line just long enough to distract a blocker or two, only to bolt back and cover the hot receiver. "It's scary against the Raiders because, when blitzed, their tendency is to send [fleet-footed running back] Napoleon Kaufman into the flat," says Brown, who had a team-high nine tackles. "The worst thing that can happen is when their hot receiver is the wide man and I'm in the interior line. I'll maybe have to sprint 30 yards. My back is to the ball, but I have to get in position or else it could be a big play."