Bruce Irvin did something strange and amazing in the fourth quarter against Atlanta.
With the game decided, Irvin took a few powerful strides toward Atlanta receiver Harry Douglas between plays. And then, for no other reason than he can, Irvin jumped over the 6-foot Douglas.
Similar feats have been pulled off before but usually by smaller, nimbler athletes. Bruce Irvin is 6 feet 3 and weighs 248 pounds.
What does jumping over a stationary receiver say about Irvin as a football player? Not much. But it does say a lot about Irvin’s athleticism, the kind that allowed Seattle’s coaches to comfortably move him from defensive end to linebacker.
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Irvin is six games into his tenure as an outside linebacker. In his first game after serving a four-game suspension, he had a sack. In his fourth game, he had nine tackles, a forced fumble, a sack and an interception.
“And he still had a lot of mistakes,” linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. said. “That’s like an average game for him. The sky’s the limit. There’s no ceiling to what he can do.”
The Seahawks moved Irvin to linebacker as a way to solve a logjam at defensive end with Cliff Avril, Chris Clemons and Irvin. But they also made the switch to utilize Irvin’s gifts — his combination of speed, power and size that allows him to be a factor at the line of scrimmage and in the open field.
Irvin has covered running backs and tight ends, defended the run on first and second down and moved to the defensive line on third down.
“He’s so talented God-given wise that it makes up for his skill right now,” safety Earl Thomas said. “Just think if he keeps working toward improving his skill how much better he can be.”
Irvin still needs refinement. He’s gone from focusing almost solely on getting after the quarterback to needing to quickly read and react to offenses.
“He has to put it all together,” Norton said. “He has to be the complete package.”
His lone interception came on a play where he lined up in the slot against St. Louis tight end Jared Cook. He was covering Cook man-to-man. Cook ran a wheel route down the sideline, and quarterback Kellen Clemens floated a pass his direction.
Irvin stayed with Cook, broke on the ball and picked it off.
“He’s like a defensive back playing defensive end,” Carroll said. “I think you saw it perfectly on that play. He looked like a cornerback covering a guy down the sideline. He can catch kickoffs, he can catch punts. He’s a gifted athlete.”
All offseason Irvin heard a similar line of questioning: How do you feel about dropping back in coverage? He could play around the line of scrimmage, but could he hold up when he had to play in more space?
He laughed at the questions.
“I was always a great athlete,” Irvin said. “I was just waiting for my opportunity to really show that I could be more than just a defensive end or rush-the-passer type guy. I’m really trying to be more of a complete player.”
During the draft last year, Carroll saw a scouting report on Irvin that surprised him. Carroll said the report indicated that Irvin didn’t have what it takes to play linebacker. “He’s uncomfortable, a fish-out-of-water kind of thing,” Carroll said.
He looked at the report, then quickly dismissed it.
Carroll and general manager John Schneider liked Irvin’s speed, and Schneider called Irvin the best pass-rusher in the draft after Seattle surprisingly picked him 15th overall.
“He has a high motor,” Thomas said. “People don’t understand how hungry he is and how great he wants to be. That’s why I like playing in this defense. And you can tell with him: I don’t think he takes plays off. He’s out to prove something. I love that.”
Irvin has been quieter in his past two games, registering six tackles and no sacks. He is still developing. He has taken to linebacker but admittedly has a ways to go.
He certainly has the athletic ability. In the locker room not long ago, Thomas was describing what makes Irvin unique.
“He’s faster than some DBs probably,” Thomas said. “I think he can probably beat J.J. in a race.”
He looked to his left, where safety Jeron Johnson was sitting.
“Bruce can beat you, bro?” Thomas said.
“Nah,” Johnson said, smiling.
“See what I’m saying?” Thomas said. “He’s smiling. Hey, Bruce is fast. That shows what kind of athlete he is.”
Jayson Jenks: 206-464-8277 or firstname.lastname@example.org