Bruce Irvin says the opportunity to be a pass-rusher in Oakland will allow him to reach his potential.
Bruce Irvin said he didn’t think he could ever reach his full potential if he had stayed with the Seahawks because they played him at outside linebacker instead of using him as a true pass rusher.
Irvin signed with the Oakland Raiders as a free agent earlier this offseason, and he offered some interesting thoughts on why he left Seattle in an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio:
“I honestly felt like if I stayed in that system, I don’t think I ever would be the player that I think I can be in this league, and that’s being a pass rusher,” Irvin said, according to the Raiders’ team site. “SAM outside linebacker is cool, but you can do your job the whole game at SAM linebacker and you’ll have two tackles. I just want to be utilized more and get put in positions more to make plays. I really think (coach) Jack Del Rio and (defensive coordinator) Ken Norton, Jr. are going to do a great job of really allowing me to do that.”
He added, “I haven’t even scratched what I know I can do, man. Like I said, Seattle kind of limited me in that defense – and I did the best that I could do – but I haven’t scratched my surface. I’m far from it. I still have a lot more great years, and a lot more things that I have to prove.”
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The Seahawks used Irvin as a pass-rushing specialist during his rookie season in 2012. But faced with a logjam of talent at defensive end before the 2013 season — the Seahawks signed Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril — Norton, Seattle’s linebackers coach at the time, approached Irvin about switching to strongside (SAM) linebacker. It was the most logical answer to Norton’s biggest question: What was the best way to get them all on the field at the same time?
Irvin came to embrace the change, although he admitted that he still saw himself as a defensive end. As a linebacker, the Seahawks asked Irvin to do many thing. Sometimes he dropped into zone coverage, sometimes he covered tight ends, sometimes he had to “set the edge”, which basically meant not letting running backs get outside of him.
And he is right: The nature of that job often meant he wasn’t going to make a lot of plays.
The Seahawks also turned Irvin loose as a pass-rusher on third down or in obvious passing situations, so he still rushed the passer fairly often. Irvin had had 6.5 sacks in 2014 and 5.5 last year after having eight sacks as a rookie.
But rushing the passer wasn’t his main responsibility anymore, and it always seemed like he wanted it to be.