Bruce Irvin tape review vs Louisville

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.

Today we’ll look at Irvin’s senior tape against Louisville after previously studying his performances against Pittsburgh and Clemson.

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.


  1. Nolan Thomas

    Rob thanks for the breakdown and the site it is amazing.

    So we know that he won’t be apart of a three three five in Seattle but can you explain what he will be doing? Will he be an outside line backer playing off the line? Will he be playing a d end playing on the line? What are the players that will likley be next to him?

    • Rob Staton

      Long term the hope is he’ll be the LEO, Nolan. The role that Clemons has played for the last two years. As a rookie he’ll act as a pass rush specialist playing the role Raheem Brock has used for the last two seasons. So he’ll line up on the opposite side of Clemons and take around 50% of the snaps.

      • Nolan Thomas

        Ok so if he is in the Raheem Brock role is Bryant out of the game? At that point who would be in between him and Clemons? I have also herd that they might use him on the same side as Clemons in that senerio would he be behind Clemons or next to him?

        • Rob Staton

          Yes when Brock was on the field Bryant was usually off. In passing situations or third down they’ll sub Bryant. They’ll rotate around Mebane/Branch/Jones inside. If they want to double up on Clemons side he’d probably act as an extra rusher in a creative look.

          • hawkfan

            The only issue I see is with qbs like Brady and Rodgers, who we will face next year, they don’t have a difference of passing downs and running downs and with the rotations of Bryant and Bruce, they will just audible of based on the defensive personnel, if it is not 3rd down. This will lessen the impact of the pass rush and keep it so Clemons is the only pass rusher, just like last year. I don’t see the drastic improvement of pass rush with the rotations. Teams like the Giants rotate players that are good in pass and rush defense, so they don’t miss a beat. Unless a lb emerges as a pass rusher, we will be back at square one. That is why I liked your idea of Upshaw, even though I didn’t like the player. Jarvis Jones would have been the perfect player to plug into this defense.

            Hopefully, Toomer, Wright, Smith, or somebody else emerges as a complete lber that can pass rush, pass defend, and run defend. Sadly, those guys are completely rare and we will just have to make do, with what we have. It’s just sad, because this would be the only thing that could hold us back even if guys like Irvin work out and keep us from being a top 5 defense, which would keep us from the playoffs, unless we gain drastic defensive improvement. Hopefully, it all works out, but we’ll just have to wait and see for now.

            Great site, by the way. We may not agree on everything, but I like the insightful perspective on this site, that is so lacking on many other sites.

            • Rob Staton

              Yeah I loved the idea of Jarvis Jones and in my first 2012 mock draft I had him going to Seattle… obviously that was before it became clear he wouldn’t declare. Obvious connection with Carroll too at USC.

              • hawkfan

                Will we be out of reach for him next year? Where do you see him going? I know it’s not likely, but I would love to ahead a player like him to our defense. Also, do you see any other players like him within our reach next year or players you like that can have impact like that from the lb position?

            • Brett

              Putting Aldon Smith in only on passing downs didn’t prevent SF from being a top five defense. I don’t see it being an issue.

            • Hawkfaninmt

              The reason I see that as being less of an issue is because the teams that have Brady and Rodgers don’t have running games that scare me. Sure irvin can rush the passer better than pass defend. but when it is Shane Vereen running the ball, do we really need Red in there?

  2. peter

    To me he seems to push a good deal of tackles back….my favorite part of the video has to be at about 2 minutes when the RB shadows either tackle for more or less all the plays in the game so that there is an extra body to stop Irvin from getting a sack…hilarious….

  3. Wade

    The most intriguing thing about Irvin to me is how raw he looks. Seeing what he can do with pure athletic ability has me dreaming of what he can do if he can soak up some coaching. I doubt he can ever excell against the run but if he can be adequate as well as develop his pass rush he will be the steal of this draft. I may be drinking the kool aid though.

  4. Kevin S.

    It seems as if he sometimes is scared to engage into a bullrush. Bullrush most the time is pure strength but with his speed it should still be possible. Coaching should do this kid wonders, that is for sure.

  5. hawkfan

    They may have to draft another pass rusher next year, to replace Clemons in the rotation, if Clemons leaves as a free agent. Hopefully, if that happens Irvin will step into the leo and a rookie can step into a rotating position with Red. I would draft a pass rusher either way, because as the Giants showed, you can never have too many pass rushers. It will be interesting to see what they do with all the guys that might command big contracts next year, like Unger, Clemons, and Jason Jones. I hope they extend Unger soon and see how the season plays out with Clemons and Jones. It will be an interesting year, with hopefully some great pass rush, to make our defense a top 5 defense.

    • Rob Staton

      We’ll see how it goes with Clemons. I could envisage an extension if he has another good year.

      • hawkfan

        The thing is, both sides have to agree. The seahawks aren’t going to break the bank and if he wants a huge contract, he may have to go elsewhere, if some team is willing to give it to him. We’ll see how it goes and what he wants and whether the seahawks and him can agree.

        • Rob Staton

          He’s a pretty niche pass rusher though, we have to remember that. He’s an ideal LEO, so his market will always be of more value to Seattle than other teams. That’ll hurt him come free agency if he’s looking for a big deal. Seattle has leverage with Irvin but I do anticipate a situation where they can get a deal done for Clemons if so desired.

          • hawkfan

            Isn’t that similar to a 3-4 lb or pass rusher and how guys like Suggs play for the Ravens? I feel like a team that doesn’t stick to their philosophy, like us, will adapt and try to use his speed as a 3-4 rusher of the edge. The leo and that position are similar and require similar roles. I would love for Clemons to stay for a reasonable deal, but I don’t feel that is a guarantee and with him rising in age, we may need to look for a replacement to pair with Bruce in the long run and add to our pass rushing corps next year and that may become a option, even in the first next year, depending on the options and how our needs look.

            • Rob Staton

              I guess I just find it a little odd to be talking about maybe ‘needing’ to replace the most productive defensive lineman on the team simply because he turns 31 at the end of October. So far we haven’t see any noticeable signs of decline. If he gets another 10-12 sacks this year, I suspect they’ll work aggressively on getting the right deal. We’ll see what happens.

              • hawkfan

                The thing is, from what Pete and John have shown, they don’t like older players, if that makes sense. I mean Gallery played great last year and they released him as a 31 year old. It feels like they are always trying to get this roster younger and it doesn’t seem like they would like to keep or acquire older players longer than they have to. The Rice and Miller acquisitions were so lauded, because of the youth of the players. They haven’t acquired any big name older players, so far. I may be wrong, but it seems like they would rather have younger players if possible. If they can get another Clemons in the draft next year, then I think they would rather get that guy over Clemons, who might be nearing his decline. But, what do I know, maybe they love him and they’ll resign him and he might want to be back. It’ll be interesting to watch the year unfold.

                • Richardfg7

                  I think Gallery being released had a lot to do with the fact he was a league leader in penalties and though a good run blocker not so in the pass-blocking.

              • hawkfan

                Also, many sacks last year were against poor teams, like the Rams and he didn’t show up against the better teams. He was very inconsistent and I don’t feel pass rush numbers tell the whole story about his production. He is great player when on and rushing the qb, but he was rarely on last year and his production seemed stacked on the worse teams on the schedule, with poor o-lines. He was completely shut down by great o-lines and had small impact against those teams.

              • pqlqi

                I agree with you to some extent, but at 31 the team will have to guard against the impending decline that comes for every player at some point. Re-signing Clemons will depend on health and development of Dexter Davis, Konz, and any of the other project conversions they have been working on. At most, I’d expect a 2 year extension with a contract value appropriate for Clemons to play the Raheem Brock role, maybe something along the lines of 6 million per year with 8 million guaranteed.

              • pqlqi

                I agree with you to some extent, but at 31 the team will have to guard against the impending decline that comes for every player at some point. Re-signing Clemons will depend on health and development of Dexter Davis, Konz, and any of the other project conversions they have been working on. At most, I’d expect a 2 year extension that would slate Clemons to play Raheem Brock’s role in 2013 and 2014.

  6. Chris

    Not a big critique of the guy, but I think his “motor” is over-exaggerated. He certainly tries hard to get to the QB, but when he’s out of the play he gives up more often than not. If he was playing as an every down guy and needed to save his energy I’d have less of a problem with it, but he’s a guy that shouldn’t get very winded due to limited snaps and although he makes some nice plays chasing guys down from behind, more often than not it seems he starts loafing.

  7. Misfit74

    Maybe I’ve not been paying attention. While I think Irvin’s Senior tape is important, hopefully there is extensive review of his 2010 tape. As we know, Irvin played out of position his senior year (2011). Correct me if I’m wrong, but I tend to think the 2010 is more important in many ways than the 2011 tape.

    • Rob Staton

      2010 tape isn’t available in every snap format, only highlights and the TMB ‘positive/negative’ stuff. But he did still line up in the 3-3-5. In 2011 they tried to fit him into it as a full-time starter but in 2010 he was just a specialist and was spelled more.

  8. Norm M

    With his explosive get off and the combination of the 12th man crowd noise it looks like we will see a lot of 3rd and longs when at home. Offensive tackles will be pretty jumpy worrying about getting beat outside.

    If the guy can rush the QB and either cause a hurried throw or get a sack, who cares if he’s not a every down player. The goal is to get our offence back on the field. It drove me crazy watching opposing team’s complete long third downs to extend drives. I’ll take a guy who regularly pressures a quarterback into poor decisions on third downs over a every down player any day.

  9. Michael (CLT)

    Excited, yet cautious with Irvin

  10. A. Simmons

    I love this pick. Can’t wait to watch him play. He had quite a few tackles for a loss at WVU. 14.5 in 2010 and 14 in 2011. That seems pretty good for a man his size playing the position he was playing.

  11. Kevin S.

    I feel like we are going to have alot more sacks this season for the simple fact of jason jones along with irvin and clemons in 3 man fronts as well as maybe jaye howard in 4 man fronts? The Hawks didnt have much of an interior rush last season which makes it harder for edge rushers. So with some hopefully spooky new additions, the 12th man can do some work.

    • genax

      i think so too the sacks will come but i think there will be so many holds this season its going to frustrating to watch at times as we will most likely not get the calls.

      do all of you guys who respond to rob actually work?

  12. Richardfg7

    Pete Carroll has used this defense his entire coaching life. He knows what tools he needs to make it dominate. So when he says this is the guy he’s always wanted to make it work, Well I just couldn’t be happier !

  13. flynn.bkaldwin15289

    No one seems to mention that our adaptable hybrid defense that now features guys like Jason Jones and a plethora of young talent with not only great straightlined speed but quality if not great athletic ability at their positions. The team kept Bryant, Hill, Trufant, McCoy, Farewell, and signed Ruud…so losing Heater and Bigby doesn’t hurt our veteran leadetship department. I see the foundation of a great defense that will dictate offenses. But what I was getting at was even though 7 of our 10 picks were on D… I think our offense will get tremendously better sparring against what could be an Elite D, especially our offensive line. Preparation is half the battle but only time will tell. (James Carpenter, once healthy, could certainly improve greatly getting tag teamed by Bryant and Irvin all practice long).

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