PFT broke the news today that Bruce Irvin had agreed terms with the Seahawks, becoming the first 2012 round-one pick to sign a contract. The deal is worth $9.34m fully guaranteed over four years, with over $5m in bonuses. The news is less of a huge relief as it was in the past, with the rookie pay scale all but ending the long hold-outs witnessed pre-2011. Eight rookies in total agreed terms today, including second round pick Bobby Wagner and third round quarterback Russell Wilson.
One of the things we’ve looked at so far is how West Virginia used Irvin, schematically and in down/distance. By now everyone’s aware of the 3-3-5 formation the Mountaineers used and Irvin’s admittance that he didn’t exactly fit within that system. Irvin: “We ran a 3-3-5 stack defense, I was 235 pounds and you got me in a three technique? I can’t help you. You got me going against two 300-pounders and I’m only 235? I don’t know anybody who could play the run against two 300-pound guys at 235 pounds.” The thing I always come back to is this – everybody knows it was a bad fit for Bruce. He admits it, the Seahawks won’t use him in a three-man front and most people who watch WVU tape can see it wasn’t a great fit. Yet he still had over 20 sacks in two years. So what will he do in a position or scheme which suits him down to the ground?
While he was as exclamation point to the pass rush and not used as an every down player at WVU, it’s time the critics realised this is just the way the game is going. If Irvin has ten or more sacks next year as a rookie specialist, few people will be disecting the decision to make him the first pass rusher off the board. Greg Cosell today called the mocking of Seattle’s choice as, “so absurd it’s laughable” before breaking down why:
“It could easily be argued based on tape study that Irvin was the most explosive edge pass rusher in the draft. Think about that for a minute. The most important defensive priority in today’s NFL is rushing the quarterback. You can go all the way back to Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh in the 1980s; Walsh, always a step ahead, said that fourth quarter pass rush was the key to winning. His theory has evolved to the point where it encompasses all four quarters. Thus, the Seahawks selected a player with explosive attributes at a premium position.
“What about the argument that he’s not a “three-down player”? That’s another use of “conventional wisdom” that does not withstand further scrutiny. Irvin will likely be on the field close to 60 percent of the plays in an increasingly pass-first league. In the NFL, if you cannot defend the pass, you will not win. Last year, the San Francisco 49ers selected Aldon Smith with the seventh pick in the first round. I watched every 49ers defensive play in 2011. Smith did not play more than 20 snaps in the base 3-4 defense. He was exclusively a sub-package player, playing only in nickel and dime personnel. He had 14 sacks in the regular season, and two more in the playoffs. Was he a poor draft choice because he was not a three-down player? Please, let’s think before we react.”
Aldon Smith too approximately 46% less snaps than Von Miller last year, but still had more sacks. Against Louisville Irvin took 30 total snaps, which is 13 less than he took against Pittsburgh and three more than against Clemson. Yet the great thing about the Louisville game is it kind of sums up Cosell’s argument quite emphatically. Irvin’s first snap in the game doesn’t come until the score is already 14-7 to Louisville with 1:21 remaining in the first quarter. Irvin’s first snap is a sack for an 11-yard loss. He stays on the field for 3rd and 19, and gets another sack. Two plays in one entire quarter, two sacks.
The Seahawks have enough defensive lineman who can stop the run. They need a pass rush to get teams off the field. If Irvin can team up with Chris Clemons as a rookie it doesn’t matter if he only plays two snaps in a quarter as long as he can have an impact.
First down snaps: 11
Second down snaps: 11
Third down snaps: 8
Fourth down snaps: 0
This is the first tape I’ve studied where Irvin is on the field for 1st and 10 more than any other down/distance. The two sacks are classic Irvin, beating the tackle to the edge and getting to the quarterback. The second sack is the kind of play that will really appeal to the Seahawks – flashing the explosive get-off, the ability to find the edge before the tackle can adjust and then showing impressive lean to turn at a seemingly impossible angle to make the play. Balance, speed, execution – something the Seahawks lacked last year aside even with Clemons playing the majority of downs.
When Irvin talks about playing the three, look at 1:32 in the video when he lined up as an interior pass rusher. There’s essentially a center, guard and tight end teaming up to block him. It’s almost unexplainable that he’d be put into that position, but WVU did use a lot of creative blitzes and looks and actually made a sack on this play via the left edge rusher with the extra attention Irvin received to the right-center.
Irvin has two staple moves – the speed rush to the edge and the inside counter. He’ll drive and plant his foot into the ground to give the impression he’ll go outside, before sidestepping inside to attack the center. I don’t buy-in to the theory that he’s too weak to engage a tackle, because there are examples of a capable bull rush or successful brawl. In this video though, the left tackle had his number when he got into his pads. This will be the greatest test Irvin has to deal with if he’s to become a permanent LEO pass rusher. Tackles in the NFL will be quicker and trying to counter will be more difficult. Can he cut back with a punch to the chest to jolt the tackle? Because if the tackle always covers the inside but can kick out well enough, he could be dominated at times. Can he adopt a spin move so that when he fakes the edge rush he can avoid contact and break into the middle in a more fluid manner without sidestepping/dancing? Developing a spin move could be a major positive for Bruce.
I like the play at 3:25 where he dips inside and spots a hole to break on the quarterback. Seattle could find some fortune having Irvin dip into the interior from Clemons’ side similar to the way San Francisco uses the two Smith’s. Justin holds the edge, Aldon loops back around and attacks from the interior. Seattle could use the extra attention given to Clemons in order to similarly enhance Irvin’s ability to have an impact. I also like the way Irvin reads the play, it’s an underrated quality he has. Seattle struggled against mobile quarterbacks on the bootleg or PA and getting out of the pocket. Irvin should help here because he reads the game very well in space, takes good angles and will limit the area in which a quarterback is prepared to move into.
Anyone who says Irvin can’t hold up against the run needs to watch the play at 3:49. He blows through the guard and knife’s through from the left end position and destroys the play for a loss. Irvin’s strength for his size is deceptive and while he won’t play with the same level of ferocity on every down, it’s worth noting that he plays stronger than most 235-245lbs lineman.