Examining where new Oakland Raiders outside linebacker Bruce Irvin fits in the team’s defense.
The Oakland Raiders made an effort to upgrade their front seven by signing outside linebacker Bruce Irvin early in free agency. According to USA Today’s Tom Pelissero, Irvin agreed to a four-year, $37 million deal, including $12.5 million in his first year.
At 6’3”, 248 pounds, Irvin is an athletic, versatile edge-rusher that is more than capable of playing at a high level both with his hand in the ground at defensive end or standing up as an outside linebacker. Though he is regularly praised for his ability to attack the quarterback off the edge, Irvin has also proven that he can remain effective both in coverage and against the run.
Irvin, 28, has accumulated 131 combined tackles (87 solo), 22 sacks, four forced fumbles, three interceptions, and seven passes defensed in 58 career games (37 starts) in the NFL.
Former Seattle Seahawks linebackers coach and now Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. likely had a hand in the Raiders’ push for Irvin, as the two worked closely together when Irvin was drafted in 2012 up to Norton Jr. leaving Seattle in 2014. Norton Jr. praised Irvin for his athleticism and versatility.
“If we were picking a team for a game on Turkey Day Thanksgiving against the neighborhood, the first pick would be Bruce,” Norton said in 2015, via Jayson Jenks of SeattleTimes.com. “He throws, he catches, he runs, he covers, he does the whole thing. He can probably throw a ball 80 yards. He can stand right here and do a back flip. He can stand on his head and do a handstand for 40 minutes. He’s an amazing athlete.”
Now reunited with Norton Jr., Irvin shouldn’t have to adjust his play dramatically to fit Norton’s scheme. Similarly to what All-Pro Khalil Mack does now in Oakland, Irvin should see a majority of his snaps at outside linebacker in the Raiders’ 4-3 defensive scheme, while in both nickel packages and on passing downs Irvin will likely put his hand in the ground opposite of Mack and attack the quarterback.
With that being said, opposing teams will have to prepare for both Mack and Irvin as Oakland’s two bookends coming off the edge. Though it’s too soon to compare the duo to Denver’s Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, Twitter has already hinted at the potential the two have of evolving into something special.
Irvin should also benefit from the talent Oakland has recently acquired along the interior defensive line, as second-round pick Mario Edwards Jr. is (hopefully) returning from injury and 2015 free agent addition Dan Williams is looking to build on his success as he moves forward with Oakland.
Irvin’s ability to produce at both defensive end and outside linebacker adds a playmaking dimension to Oakland’s defense that they should benefit from significantly. The addition of Irvin proves that GM Reggie McKenzie is not remaining complacent with the talented pass rushers he has already added to this roster, and as a result, he is successfully building a front seven that opposing quarterbacks will fear in the near future.
Check out Bruce Irvin’s Highlight Reel here.