The first thing people want to know about Bruce Irvin is how many snaps he’ll take in Seattle. Pete Carroll claims he can play 600-700 snaps initially in the Raheem Brock role,but others have argued that Brock featured in around 550 snaps. Either way, Irvin can still have an impact at 500 snaps.
Before San Francisco’s week-16 meeting with Seattle in 2011, Aldon Smith had featured in 446 snaps. That was 377 less snaps than defensive rookie of the year Von Miller and 267 less than JJ Watt. Smith still managed to accumulate 13 sacks, 12 quarterback hits, 30 quarterback pressures and two forced fumbles. In comparison, Miller had 11.5 sacks, 19 quarterback hits, 28 pressures and three forced fumbles, despite playing nearly twice as many snaps. Watt had 4.5 sacks, eight hits, 24 pressures and two fumble recoveries. Stats aren’t everything, but it goes to show how Irvin won’t necessarily be required to play even 2/3?s of the team’s snaps to have an impact.
And that’s just as a rookie. If the plan is for Irvin to eventually replace Chris Clemons as the full time LEO, he’ll one day play the majority of the defensive snaps. A lot of people have criticised the nature of the pick, questioning how often Irvin will feature and what impact he’ll have. The Seahawks want their version of Aldon Smith, even if their version isn’t quite so orthodox. As John Schneider told Adam Schein today, “We thought there was a good chance the Jets were going to take him at 16. If we walked out without him, it would’ve hurt. If you like a guy, get him. 12, 15, 28.”
Schneider also called Irvin the best edge rusher in the draft.
In reviewing Irvin’s 2011 season, I wanted to study the Pittsburgh tape first . It was a close game, won with a defensive stop in which Irvin recorded two sacks on the final Pittsburgh drive. Due to all the talk of Irvin being a specialist, I wanted to tally each of his snaps to see what kind of situations he was used.
First down snaps: 13
Second down snaps: 12
Third down snaps: 18
Fourth down snaps: 0
That’s 42% of his snaps on third down, 58% in first and second. Break it down further and 67% of those snaps were in a position of 1-10 yards for a first down. 56% of those snaps were in a position of 6-10 yards for a first down. 33% were in long yardage situations of 11-20 or 20+ yards.
I decided to compare this to a Quinton Coples game (Miami vs North Carolina). Coples is considered more of a prototype pass rusher, indeed, Pete Carroll referred to him as a ‘classic’ defensive end in his pre-draft press conference. However, UNC spelled Coples a LOT. It was interesting that against both Miami and Georgia Tech, he was being taken out of key drives for Donta Paige-Moss. I wanted to see what situations Coples was used in comparison to Irvin – after all, he went one pick later and would’ve been considered by an uninformed media to be a better pick.
First down snaps: 9
Second down snaps: 8
Third down snaps: 7
Fourth down snaps: 0
It’s difficult to compare one game against another, particularly when West Virginia’s meeting with Pittsburgh went down to the wire and the Miami vs North Carolina game was a one-sided affair. However, Coples’ total snaps in the game (24) were one snap greater than the number Irvin took on first and second down alone (23). Irvin had specific duties within the WVU defense and was taken out of certain situations. Coples was just generally spelled in and out whatever the down and distance, for no obvious reason other than rest. And the Miami game wasn’t the exception.
Coples has the frame you’d expect from a top NFL defensive lineman. But when you break down the numbers – whether it’s snaps, pressures, sacks – Irvin comes out on top. So if you’re looking for an impact rusher who can play in space, Irvin makes a lot more sense than Quinton Coples. The Seahawks were looking for an impact rusher who, one day, will play in a permanent role as the team’s LEO.
I admit I was never a big fan of Coples because the 2011 tape was just so disappointing. I wrote this article in October arguing he wasn’t a top pick, at a time when most people believed he’d go in the top five or ten. Coples in Seattle would’ve satisfied the masses, but in Seattle’s scheme he’d likely end up becoming the next failed defensive lineman traded in two years for a throwaway pick. Irvin may be a specialist in the purest sense, but he generally took more snaps for WVU and is much more likely to have an impact in Seattle’s scheme.
Let’s break down the tape. I’ve highlighted some key plays from the video above:
0:18 - Lined up at right end, just off the line in what looks like a comparable role to the LEO. Irvin is well blocked by the left tackle as Pittsburgh run to the right hand side.
0:31 – Another three man front with Irvin back on the right side. He engages the left tackle before spinning back around to release. He sniffs out the QB draw and makes the tackle for a short gain.
0:37 – Same position on the right in a three. Tackle dominates Irvin and shoves him to the ground. Pitt also sends the left guard to double team on another QB run.
0:55 – Same position on the right of a three. Same LT/LG double team which stones Irvin’s edge rush.
1:04 – Same position again. Irvin reads the run, anticipates and makes the tackle.
1:09 – Misreads the run this time and allows the QB to scramble to his left and make a positive gain on second down. Looked a little confused by the call.
1:17 – Short yardage situation where Irvin lines up on the left as an edge rusher. He sprints around and makes a leaping tackle on the ball carrier. Impressive speed to be the guy who makes the tackle in that situation.
1:39 – Back on the right side and this time he bull-rushes the left tackle with some success, as the WVU line dominates to collapse the pocket and get an interior sack. Pitt sends the guard on a double team again and WVU are able to exploit the attention Irvin’s getting on
the edge with a designed blitz, sending two off the edge to confuse the guard and bringing pressure up the middle.
2:02 – This play best emphasises the folly of using Irvin in a three man front. He’s forced to take on multiple blockers, running through traffic up the middle. Really, you want this guy permanently attacking the edge. He played at 220lbs last year, and he’s taking on 300lbs lineman stood next to each other at the LOS. How is he expected to win in this situation?
2:17 – Here’s the problem Irvin will always have against the run, especially in the three man front used by WVU. He’s being asked to set an edge, with no interior help. He cannot absorb the right inside to force the ball carrier wide. It’s a free big gain on the ground for Pitt and surprisingly they don’t exploit this more in the game. The ball carrier simply runs through the huge gap in the defensive line when Irvin engages the right tackle.
2:55 – This is what Irvin does – persistent hussle at the LOS. He pushes off the right tackle twice and beats him with a decent punch. The running back chips in support, but Irvin dodges him and still locates the ball carrier to help bring down the quarterback on a scramble.
3:03 – Irvin actually does a good job setting the edge here versus the run, holding position then disengaging to make the play. Despite his size, he can compete with bigger lineman.
3:27 – Irvin lines up in space on the left. He jukes the right tackle out of the play and only a shove from a supporting guard stops him making the big play. He set the tackle up on the previous two runs on this side, running out of the play to make the double move inside. The guard does well to avoid the big play.
3:40 – Designed blitz. Irvin lines up on the left again. The middle and weak-side linebackers shows blitz but drop into coverage, the three defensive lineman rush. Then the weak-side linebacker rushes. By the time he sets off, the right tackle and running back are both absorbing Irvin. The right guard, without anyone to block, immediately turns his eyes to Irvin. With three blockers effectively concentrating on Irvin off the edge, they were able to dial up the linebacker blitz on the opposite side for a sack.
4:12 – Edge rush from Irvin from the right hand side. He leans around the corner and forces Sunseri to move up into the pocket which had collapsed. He’s sacked, and Irvin’s presence off the edge unsettled the quarterback.
4:38 – Irvin’s first sack comes from the right side. He sprints towards the left tackle and then side steps, beating his man to force the pressure inside. The guard comes on the double team so he checks, sidesteps him and moves towards the heart of the offensive line. He manages to dodge both with two sidesteps and has the closing speed to break on the quarterback and make the sack. Anyone wondering whether Irvin is just an edge rusher should watch this play. It’s a thing of beauty. This isn’t about pure speed, it’s technique, a thought process and execution.
5:27 – Irvin’s second sack. Again there’s a double team, but this time it is just about pure speed and balance. He rounds the edge, turns at an impossible angle and smacks the ball out of the quarterbacks hands for a fumble.
Some other observations I made…
- In the fourth quarter, Irvin was spelled more than any point earlier in the game. He took seven consecutive snaps on 2nd and 3rd down and was often on the field for first downs. Many of his 13 first down snaps occurred in the first half.
- Irvin’s two sacks both came with the game on the line with Pittsburgh driving for a winning field goal.
- Whenever Irvin lined up on the right side, Pittsburgh used a left tackle/left guard double team which opened up the opportunity to blitz the linebackers up the middle. There’s about a 50/50 split between the strong and weak side when Irvin lined up.
- The defensive scheme did not suit Irvin at all. In fact, I wonder how productive he would’ve been in a more traditional 4-3 front or playing as a rush linebacker. It’s not surprising he only registered one sack in his first five games as a full time starter working in a three-man front. Seahawks fans should be excited to witness how he performs playing across from Chris Clemons with bigger lineman absorbing space and blocks up the middle.
Members of the media who cover the WVU football team will certainly miss Bruce Irvin. He was a go-to guy before and after every game as he was always willing to talk. Most times light hearted, Irvin was usually good for a quip and he usually spoke beyond the normal cliches.
None of us in West Virginia knew B.J. Irvin, as Bruce was known as a kid growing up in Georgia. B.J. Irvin was in trouble often, estranged from his family for a time and even without a home on a couple of occassions.
“I changed (the name) because B.J. was the one getting into trouble,” Irvin said late Thursday night after he was made the 15th pick of the draft by the Seattle Seahawks. “Those are two different people.
“I hate it when people say I have character issues,” Irvin continued. “I can see it if I kept getting in trouble in junior college. I’ve never been suspended and I’ve never failed a drug test. I had a recent little hiccup but I got all of those charges dismissed. It made me realize that not everyone wants you to succeed.”
The incident Irvin referred to occurred in downtown Morgantown recently when Irvin allegedly knocked a magnetic sign off of a Pita Pit delivery car. Irvin was charged with destruction of property.
“It should have been a citation,” Irvin said. “I went to court and they dropped all the charges. It’s a lesson learned. Everything about me will be magnified. I just can’t go out and get into those situations.”
Irvin has a relationship with Seahawks coach pete Carroll. Carroll tried to recruit Irvin to USC out of junior college but academic issues came up.
“I’m just happy Pete Carroll trusted and believed in me,” Irvin said. “Deep down in his heart he He knows that I am a changed person. He knew Bruce. Pete Carroll doesn’t even know B.J. He knew Bruce and that’s all that matters.”
Mountaineer fans also got to know and love Bruce Irvin as he rolled up 22 1/2 sacks in two seasons at WVU. Irvin has pledged to stay on the straight and narrow while continuing to do what he does best.
“I love eating quarterbacks,” Irvin told the Seattle media last night.
See what I mean about Irvin being a go-to guy for quotes?
RENTON, Wash. (AP) — Rock bottom for Bruce Irvin wasn’t the time he spent two weeks locked up in jail when he was a teenager.
It came after Irvin had turned his life around and overcome nearly all of the hardship of his upbringing in Atlanta and was trying to thrive in junior college in California with football as his guide. Just when Irvin was finally headed down the right path in his life, the struggle to come up with the $4,600 for tuition nearly derailed everything Irvin had worked toward.
“I kind of felt like I had done all this, turned my life around and another stumble and I might not be able to play football next year,” Irvin recalled. “I kept working and the good Lord got me through it and my family came up with the money and I made it through that. I’ve been through a whole lot worse situations.”
Money will soon not be a problem for Irvin, who was introduced Saturday after being picked in the first round by the Seattle Seahawks. Irvin was taken with the 15th overall pick, a selection that was considered a reach by some draft pundits, but instantly fills Seattle’s desire to add a speed pass rusher coming off the edge.
“People say 15 was a reach. I don’t’ think it was a reach. I didn’t expect to go 15, I’m not going to like about that, but they felt different and I don’t blame them for it,” Irvin said. “I’m going to come in here and it’s going to pay off for them.”
Irvin was the centerpiece of a draft that was decidedly defensive minded as Seattle spent eight of its 10 picks on defensive players — although one of those is being moved to offense. But none of the additions Seattle made to its defense has the backstory that matches its first-round pick.
Rough upbringing: check.
Jail time as a youth: check.
High school dropout: check.
“There were some lonely dark nights not knowing what he wanted to do, where he wanted to be,” said Chad Allen, Irvin’s mentor. “But he knew he wanted to be successful and he had that determination from the beginning to be successful and all he needed was just the blueprint and how to be. With a lot of kids at the end of the day they just don’t know how to achieve success.”
Irvin’s story turned when he was pointed in the direction of Allen, an Atlanta area coach and mentor. Allen provided guidance pointed directly at Irvin’s chances at a future in football, but with a firm hand of everything that needed to be done to accomplish that goal. That meant passing the GED after dropping out of high school, originally going to Butler Community College in Kansas and eventually landing at Mt. San Antonio College in California.
That’s where Irvin’s comeback almost ended over less than $5,000. But the money was found, even though Irvin had to withdraw from school for a short time, and he became one of the top junior college players in the country before becoming a star at West Virginia.
And along his entire journey, Allen was there to help. That’s why Irvin made sure along with his mother and girlfriend, Allen came along with Irvin to the Pacific Northwest for his introduction.
“He was there when no one else was,” Irvin said of Allen. “It’s not about the money. He’s the one who wants me to keep working hard and keep me successful. Chad’s a great person.”
While Irvin’s backstory and his journey to the NFL is fascinating, the focus now turns to how the Seahawks intend to use Irvin and if he can be more than just a pass-rush specialist. Even before the first offseason team activities arrive, coach Pete Carroll has it in mind to use Irvin in the role that Raheem Brock filled the last two seasons as a pass-rush specialist on passing downs, occasionally slotted in to other situations. Brock was a standout in 2010 with nine sacks, but struggled to match that production last season.
“We just have to bring him along and make him understand what’s expected of him and bring out the best he has to offer,” Carroll said. “It’s really clear to us. We have a unique position, we’ve already been between a 4-3 and a 3-4 team in our expectations of the personnel and that’s why it’s a rare opportunity for us to find a guy that really fits it just right.”
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