Bruce Irvin tape review vs Clemson

Bruce Irvin took 43 snaps against Pittsburgh, a game we reviewed earlier in the week. In the Orange Bowl he didn’t need such a workload as the Mountaineers blew Clemson away in a record breaking 70-33 victory. The nature of the snaps was interesting though.

Against Pittsburgh, 58% of Irvin’s snaps were on first and second down in basic down/distance situations (eg, 1st/2nd down between 0-10 yards). Against Clemson, Irvin didn’t take a first down snap until the second quarter and by half time, he’d only played three first downs. Overall he had 27 snaps, the difference of 16 in part due to the nature of the game (Pittsburgh was a one-point nail-biter). But it’s interesting that this time 81% of his snaps came on second or third down.

First down snaps: 4

Second down snaps: 14

Third down snaps: 8

Fourth down snaps: 1

Irvin had one short-yardage snap on 3rd and 3 in the second quarter, but didn’t take another snap with the distance between 0-5 yards.

0-5 yards: 1

5-10 yards: 20

10-20 yards: 5

20+ yards: 1

It’s no real surprise that he didn’t feature too heavily in a 37-point victory, but the snaps he took do give some insight into how he was used. The Mountaineers were determined to persevere with the 3-3-5, a system which is the very antithesis of a good scheme fit for #11. Maybe it’s not such a surprise they were managing what amounted to a 5-technique who, by his own admission, was playing between 220-230lbs. They made no attempt to max out the most prolific pass rusher on their roster by switching schemes. Thus, we see 27-snap games.

So how much of an impact he have in those 27 snaps? The tape above offers an insight into what Irvin will probably be as a pro. He’ll make two or three big plays in a game, he’ll provide consistent threat with edge speed and a good counter – but he’ll also be blocked out of series too. Irvin may never be an every down work horse, although the LEO by design offers potential to be a starter. Even f he does feature in just 50% of the snaps, he’s good enough to make enough key plays per game to warrant the #15 pick.

Against Clemson he made back-to-back splash plays at the end of the first half and start of the second. Go to 2:03 in the video above and you’ll see Irvin run out of the play originally as Tahj Boyd attempts to scramble up the middle of the field. Irvin loops back around the line of scrimmage and spots the quarterback, before making up 20-yards to strip the ball and force a fumble. It wasn’t just great hustle to rush back and make the play, it was also pretty instinctive to get the turnover. It’s also worth noting he made that effort with a minute to go in the half and with his team leading 42-20. He wasn’t in the locker room. He could’ve been – and who would’ve blamed him – but he wanted more points.

The next big play is a sack, where Irvin leads the tackle to the edge before quickly cutting inside and taking down the quarterback. It’s a move he’s pretty much mastered and he’s very fluid when changing direction during a sprint. A tackle is always going to need to cover the inside counter. Yet by protecting inside, he’ll be susceptible to the speed around the edge. Irvin might not have superb upper body strength (although it’s underrated for his size) but having a counter move like this will cause pro-lineman problems, not just college left tackles.

He likes this move. Check 1:00 where he tries it again and probably should’ve drawn a holding call for the tackle basically grabbing him round the neck to avoid the sack.

There are also examples in the tape where the counter doesn’t work. See 0:13 where Irvin just lacks a little bit of extra juice in the cut and the tackle reads it. I keep reading that when a lineman gets his hands on Irvin it’s over, but I think we see in this play that he can fight, he’ll prod and jab. He almost tips the pass in the end because he has another fight to drive the tackle backwards. Don’t write off this guy’s ability to brawl.

Irvin shows decent instinct at 0:46 to read the play, work through traffic and do enough to put off Boyd and force him to throw the ball away. He’s stoned on four consecutive plays from 1:31-2:01, with the #63 dominating him with a good punch to the body and following through the block. This is really what Seahawks fans should expect at the next level – a lot of key defensive plays, but also a series or two where Irvin is just blocked out pretty comfortably.

Back to this 3-3-5 scheme, because he’s again playing in a three-man front. It’s going to be much harder to block the guy when he’s rushing opposite Chris Clemons with some beef in the middle, or even in an aggressive five-man front. He may be unblockable in those situations. It stands to reason that the Seahawks will utilise Irvin’s foot speed in the same way that San Francisco did last year with their first round pick. The 49ers would regularly send Justin Smith to the edge and have Aldon Smith loop around and attack through the middle, with all the attention going to Justin. The Seahawks will try and get Irvin into positions where he’s not accounted for and if he finds a gap, it’s over. They could even have Clemons and Irvin rush the same side. It’s impossible to see how WVU were getting anything like the best out of him in this 3-3-5 scheme… and he still made 20+ sacks in two years.

I’m still a little annoyed for second guessing myself and not spending the necessary time to understand the role he was being asked to play in West Virginia. The position never suited him and I didn’t pay enough attention to that when watching WVU games last season. Now that I have a reason to sit down and pick through this, I get it. And I also get why the Seahawks spent the #15 pick on Irvin, and why one GM called him the hottest prospect in the draft in the week leading up to April 26th. The raw speed, the surprising upper body strength, the ability to counter. “Bruce Irvin is ready to crash the 2012 NFL DraftI wrote a year ago. Why did I ignore that?

There will be frustrating plays, but there’s also going to be an impact. People will watch this game and second guess themselves just like I did. The guy had a key sack and a forced fumble. He could’ve had another sack but for a blatant hold. If he’s recording that most weeks in Seattle, nobody will be giving the pick a D grade in twelve months time.

Irvin is going to be a headache to scheme against next season, particularly if there’s interior pressure from Mebane/Branch/Jones and continued effectiveness from Chris Clemons. It’s also going to be pretty difficult to send the tight end on a route when Irvin’s in the game and not playing with his hand in the dirt. He’s just not going to be truly effective on every series – but who really is? Rest assured that every offensive coordinator the team faces next year is going to be working overtime to find a way to block this guy. Specialist or not, he’ll have an impact.


  1. Cameron


    I’m interested in your thoughts on Irvin’s abilities as a run defender. I know it’s been pretty well taken as gospel that Irvin can’t be counted on to make plays in this area, and yet the tape I have been watching disagrees. I see a player that at the very least has the awareness to diagnose (although I’ve seen him misread a few plays) and the strength to disengage and make a play.

    • Rob

      He’s stronger than people give him credit for. He’s never going to seal an edge but he’ll grapple, he holds his position and gives as good as he gets. As you mention Cameron he does read the play well in space and has good instinct. He’s a much more all round player than people give him credit for, mainly because of the number of snaps he took in a 3-3-5.

  2. Nolan Thomas

    Rob thanks again for all the work you guys do! This was the first draft that I new almost all the name the hawks were picking because you and kip did a great job getting me prepared.

    I’m very excited for OTAs n training camp

    • Rob

      Stay tuned Nolan we’ve got some great 2013 names coming up (with game tape) that nobody’s talking about this year.

  3. woofu

    He was plan b if you buy this,,,

    • Rob

      I have zero faith in that. From what I heard, Seattle had more than Luck/Griffin ranked above Tannehill, including the guy they drafted in round three. The guy who told me it would be a pass rusher in R1 guaranteed also said they definitely would not take a QB in the first two rounds. Both proved true.

      • woofu

        If this guy was in the “war room” and is what he represents then we have a real time story.

        • Rob

          He’d be the first guy with access to the war room on draft day that posts information on an internet chat forum. That’s for sure.

          Everything he’s saying contradicts what I was told. From January we were told… it’ll be a pass rusher. Guaranteed. It was my error to project Upshaw so much, even though he was liked. But the fact is they took a pass rusher, and one that Pete is very, very familiar with. I was also told from the same source to look to QB’s next year and a bit of other info there. I was told R1-2 was a definite no-go for QB’s but R3 was a possibility. More truth. So I have very little faith in this guy saying Tannehill would’ve been the pick.

          • JamesP

            This is someone spinning a line. Why would he be scambling to do an ‘eval sheet’ and scoring Irvin after Tannehill was taken? The draft board would be set by then, scoring would have been done weeks before on Tannehill, Irvin, Wilson and all other prospects the Hawks rated as draftable. I don’t believe a word of it.

  4. AlaskaHawk

    It has been hard for me to see the logic in taking Irvin vs a well rounded player in the first. When I look at the Ravens and Terrell Suggs injuring his achilies tendon, who would I want to subsitute for him? Upshaw will fill in nicely, Irvin won’t. And that was my issue with the first round selection.

    As a quick pass rusher we got the best one in the draft. As an all around linebacker, not so good. After reading articles from Rob and Kp, I’m getting excited about Irvin’s possibilities as a pass rusher. I hope he can give us that extra thing we need to make our team #1 in pass defense.

    • E=MC^2

      Pete has stated time and time again that Irvin is playing LEO, which is separate from the LB corps. The all around linebacker we drafted was Bobby Wagner, who is speedy and played all three spots in college – along with KJ and Hill at the rest of the spots. Malcolm Smith and Barrett Ruud are your backups, and neither of them are likely to be asked to pass rush consistently.

  5. Ryan


    I visit multiple times daily and view this blog as the best. Thank you for the dedication! I have played my fair share of football and a few things start to get me wondering on Bruce Irvin’s development.

    1. HE IS TALENTED, we get it, but every single NFL lineman can handle themselves against the style of pass rush he uses 95% of the time. He needs to develop a spin move, a punch and disengage and a few other moves.

    1.a So why in the heck do you think someone who is focused on pass rush their entire career waits until going professional to put effort into developing technique? That scares me a bit.

    2. I believe he will need to add another 10 to 20 LBs and will be expected too. As of right now he has ELITE speed and I simply hope that by adding weight he will not fall into the above average speed category.

    3. We traded back and accumulated more picks to gain 10 this year again. Knowing the QB class of next year was important to this organization in some capacity, In your opinion why did we not aquire any 2013 picks? I cannot see this organization mortgaging the house to trade up for a QB. Could you imagine how MAD schneider would be with only 2 picks in next years draft? I am simply a little confused on why with 2 opportunities we did not push for a little help, a 3rd next year or something for ammo.


    • Rob

      Hi Ryan,

      I’m not totally convinced he needs to add too much weight (he’s at 245lbs now, but plays stronger). Speed is a big asset and he is capable of the bull rush and counter. I agree on the spin move but he’ll always have the edge speed. You can’t coach that. Other areas can be coached up and developed. He can set a tackle up rushing the edge to come back inside, and he’s pretty much mastered that move. His lean/balance around the edge is exceptional. And in fairness, Von Miller had 10+ sacks as a rookie and he’s a similar size.

      I’d guess on the 2013 front the opportunity never materialised. Nobody spent a 2013 first rounder this year which we have seen in the last few drafts. Very little 2013 stock was being offered up. And while the team do like to accumulate picks, for the right quarterback I’m sure they’d agree a move up would be sensible. And let’s not forget – this is Pete’s gig to run. This roster is getting into a position now where spending a lot of picks on one guy can be justified. Although for the right quarterback I’d argue it’s always justified.

    • peter

      I agree about learning additional moves, but he was a Safety in JUCO, and a WR/RB/Athlete before that so it wasn’t like he had a ton of time to work on moves.

      About weight I’m not sure in that clemson tape, everyon egets enamored by the lay at the 2:00 mark, where he comes back into the play for the possible forced fumble…but my point is the play at :14 seconds, where because of his speed he just walks the LT back intot he QB. This is where learning a few moves, and also when you have your man beat just, disengage while he is reeling backwards and go to the QB for the sack.

      • peter

        not “lay” at the 2 minute mark..”play”…a sorry for the rambling…point is I think his weight is golden, if he has the speed and strength to walk LT’s back then jsut work on some moves, getting tougher in run support, maybe a dash of dropping back into coverage, et viola! a 3 down player in no time…

    • Attyla the Hawk

      I think that’s a big part of the allure with Irvin. The mere fact that he hasn’t been at the position long, nor does it appear he had any quality instruction. Certainly he was miscast in a scheme where the coaches wouldn’t waste time teaching edge pass rushing techniques when he didn’t line up there with regularity.

      The circumstance of his situation (new to DE and lack of opportunity to line up as a rush DE), is compelling enough on it’s own to consider him ‘under coached’. That’s even if you outright disbelieve him when he states he didn’t receive much if any technical instructions while at WVU.

      I think this guy is pretty much a blank canvas. I believe this staff’s ability to develop talent has been nothing short of remarkable. I’d expect to see Irvin make enormous strides even during the course of this season as a result of rapid development of skills never before introduced into his arsenal.

  6. williambryan

    “who really is?”
    Exactly! No one is going to be perfect all the time. It would be interesting to watch tape on Clemons and Aldon Smith to see how they do during the course of a game. As we all know sacks (and stats in general) don’t necessarily tell the whole story. The feeling I get with Clemons is that even though he doesn’t get a sack every play, he impacts every play in a positive way, but I’m sure if we watched the tape there would be instances where he gets blocked out easy or otherwise doesn’t make an impact.

  7. A. Simmons

    Nice analysis. It’s all academic until see him play. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again until he plays: I would bet on Bruce Irvin succeeding if there were odds in Vegas. The guy is raw. Has only played 2 years of NCAA ball at WVU. Dropped out of school, so didn’t spend time developing as a pass rusher in High School.

    Irvin basically learned how to rush the passer at community college. Then his first year at WVU blew up. Sill produced last year in a 3-3-5 strange defense.

    Take a look at what Aldon Smith, Von Miller, Ingram, and most other pass rushers were doing their first few years at the NCAA level. They took time to learn how to rush the passer even though they had been doing so since High School and going to college.

    Bruce Irvin is basically a pass rushing savant. That’s what we drafted. A guy with minimal coaching who just somehow is naturally able to harness his athleticism to rush the passer. Study this guy’s background. He’s a natural. He’s like that high IQ kid you read about who was born in the projects and someone eventually finds out he is a genius by giving him a chance to prove it.Or a musical prodigy found homeless on the street. Bruce Irvin was a kid that no one gave a chance and when someone finally did, they found out he had a particular NFL skill in high demand. And now Pete Carroll and his staff get to take Bruce Irvin and try to turn a pass rushing savant into a complete football playe and pass rusher supreme.

    If I were Todd Wash, Ken Norton Jr, and Pete Carroll I’d be excited to work with such a diamond in the rough. From a fan perspective, it sure is going to be interesting to see if this pass rushing savant can reach his maximum potential as one of the greatest pass rushers of all time.

  8. genax

    Bruce is one excitin prospectg considering he will be beating NFL tackles and guards with the tools he has now. I can easily picture a 8 sack season. He doesnt even have a spin move yet, nor does he know much about hand checking, looping around other players, or other techniques I have no real understanding of.

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