With training camp now just 15 days away, I thought I’d start previewing the season with 15 questions about this season — one to count down each day until camp begins.
For the first entry, I thought I’d address a topic that’s been bandied about quite a bit on social media today — is Bruce Irvin (pictured above in a Dean Rutz photo) moving to linebacker?
The answer is “yes and no.” It was widely reported during OTAs and mini-camp that the Seahawks were using Irvin some at strongside linebacker, where K.J. Wright played last year — Wright is moving to the weakside to replace the departed Leroy Hill. Malcolm Smith ended mini-camp as the presumptive starter at the strongside spot, but that spot remains pretty wide open and he’s relatively untested and the Seahawks have made it clear they intend to get creative with their defensive fronts, using lots of guys in lots of roles. Irvin’s strength is his speed and ability to play in space, and the Seahawks want to find more ways to get that on the field.
However, coach Pete Carroll said in June that that doesn’t mean you won’t see Irvin playing in a down position on the line anymore. And as he also said, some of it is semantics, as well, as Irvin could be called on to do some of the same things as before, just from different positions on the field.
As Carroll said in June:
“He’s extremely versatile and that’s why we’ve loved him from the start. He’s a true speed rusher, which that position (SAM LB) allows for. It’s just going to be a difference in the number of plays that you rush and the number of plays that you drop when you’re playing linebacker because he’s going to come off the edge for us just like he did at the LEO spot, and he can still play the LEO position for us, and he’s going to be a third-down rusher. He’s really fast, he’s 250 pounds, and he’s exactly fitting the right kind of body type to play outside linebacker in the 3-4 system. We’re a 4-3 personnel system that plays 3-4 looks. He’s extremely valuable for us. There are really three or four different things that he does for us just because he has the right body type and all.”
So as that quote indicates, this isn’t a true position switch as much as it may be an expanding of duties — though if he proves really adept at OLB then maybe that does become more of his regular spot.
As Carroll’s answer also makes clear, one of the keys here is how well Irvin can drop into pass coverage. Carroll recalled that Irvin played safety at the junior college level in 2008.
Here was Carroll’s full answer in June on Irvin’s ability to drop into pass coverage:
“He looks fine. He’s very, very adept athletically, he’s got good flow to him, he’s got great quickness, he’s a natural athlete and you forget that he was a DB way back when. When I first saw him he was a strong safety. He’s just a very uniquely talented kid, and that’s why he has that versatility that we’re going to try and maximize.”
Recall that Irvin had only one sack in the last six games of 2012 during his rookie season, when it became apparent that he might need a bit more strength to be an every-down player up front. The Seahawks obviously want to see what he can do with more opportunities off the line. How well Irvin picks up some of his new roles will be one of the many intrigues of camp.
Unfortunately for the Seahawks, however, they won’t be able to see how any of it translates onto the field until the fifth game of the season due to Irvin’s four-game suspension for PED use.