This tape comes from 2010, Irvin’s first year at West Virginia where he was predominantly used as an impact pass rusher on third downs. It shows in the snap count – Irvin featured in just 15 defensive snaps, ten of which were on third down. He took just three snaps on first and second down. Yet despite this limited work-load, he had three sacks and three quarterback hits.
First down snaps: 2
Second down snaps: 1
Third down snaps: 10
Fourth down snaps: 2
In 2011 Irvin took 43 snaps against Pittsburgh, 30 against Louisville and 27 against Clemson. He more or less doubled his game-time in comparison to 2011. Almost certainly due to the scheme, Irvin was more comfortable as an impact player at West Virginia. He had 14 sacks in 2010 with 15-snap games. After taking on a larger role at the start of 2011, he managed just one sack in his first five outings. When WVU scaled back his snaps in the second half of the season, he recorded 7.5 sacks in his last five games for the Mountaineers. There’s some consistency between work-load and snap count.
We’ve spent a lot of time on this blog talking about the 3-3-5 and how it didn’t suit Bruce. Pete Carroll has described him as the ‘ideal’ LEO pass rusher, and it’ll be intriguing to see how he adapts into that role as a full-time starter in the future. With Chris Clemons likely to remain the every-down LEO for at least 2012, once again we’ll get a chance to compare Irvin as an impact player and a starter. Even if he never truly translates to a full-time starter, if he can make three sacks in 15 snaps as a pro, nobody will be calling him a bust.
Among the 15 snaps tallied above, Irvin faced a double team six times from two offensive lineman. On one futher snap he had to deal with the running back blocking down to support the right tackle. He got his sacks on 1st and 10, 3rd and 7 and 3rd and 18. If the Seahawks sneak Irvin into the game on third downs, it’s going to be very difficult not to keep the tight end blocking, forcing teams to either take a receiver off the field or stay in max-protect. It won’t always be in the stat-column where #51 had an impact.
The first sack is at 1:58 on the video. Irvin lines up on the right side of the now infamous 3-3-5, with the two other defensive lineman positioned to the extreme left. First of all the blocking is abysmal on this play – despite the fact the left tackle and guard only have to monitor Irvin (there isn’t even a blitzing linebacker) it’s a complete mystery how he’s managed to penetrate inside. He engages the tackle, disengages with too much ease (did the tackle expect inside support from the guard?) and hammers the quarterback to end the first half. Fair play to Irvin for capitalizing on an opportunity, but this was a gift.
Irvin gets his second sack at 3:40, this time lining up on the left side again in a three-man front. He just flat out beats the right tackle for speed off the edge, leans around the corner and gets to the quarterback. This is the type of explosive edge speed the Seahawks are looking for and against sluggish right tackles and tight ends, Irvin should have a field day even in the NFL.
The final sack comes at 4:30. Again, I have no idea what the left tackle and guard are doing here. The tackle is left on an island with Irvin, who just dips inside and sprints past him like he’s not there. Where’s the guard? The most impressive part of this play is the leap at full stretch to get a fingertip to the quarterback’s shoe-laces to take him down. Great execution, again making the most of bad line play to make a maximum impact.
Even when Irvin was blocked out of a play, the tendency to be double teamed created opportunities for others. Teams aren’t going to be able to zone-in on Clemons off the edge with Irvin in the team, and it works the other way too. If the Seahawks can get any kind of impact from Jason Jones as an interior rusher, the defense (and team in general) will receive a substantial upgrade. Irvin will have an impact next year playing around 50-60% of snaps. The acid test will be how he copes as the eventual LEO starter, but it’s a role that suits him a lot better than the 3-3-5.