When the Seahawks drafted Bruce Irvin 15th overall in the 2012 draft I was confused. I’m not ashamed to admit that; I think a lot of you out there were confused as well. Reactions poured in and consensus was difficult to find. The pick was controversial, and considered a reach by many. Alternatively some were describing Irvin as the best pure pass rusher in the draft and John Clayton tweeted that, “At least 24 teams had Bruce Irvin in top 15.” People were wondering what to expect, but strangely Bruce Irvin has managed to fulfill the expectations of both those who loved and hated the pick.
People who hated the pick figured that Irvin was a situational pass rusher with big holes in his game. As it turns out, so far, that description fits Irvin perfectly. Irvin played only 20 out of 55 defensive snaps for the Seahawks against Carolina. He rarely plays any time when the opposition is likely to run and when he does he has been invisible. According to profootball reference he has only recorded 4 tackles and 1 assist. When watching the game Irvin’s lack of size (6-3 245) shows from time to time. He gets out-muscled by OT’s that can outweigh him by up to 100 pounds. Irvin can be pushed wide of the play due to his tendency to try and speed rush opposing tackles. He definitely does not look the part of a complete player. In that sense people who laughed at the Irvin pick can feel vindicated.
However, people who liked the Irvin pick and Seahawks fans everywhere are pretty excited about Irvin at this moment for one reason and one reason alone. The man can get to the quarterback. When I said earlier that Irvin had 4 tackles and 1 assist it was probably worth mentioning that meager tackle total has come in the form of 4.5 sacks. Through 5 games Irvin has exclusively tackled quarterbacks. That’s absurd. Irvin’s exceptional athleticism was well documented when he was drafted. His 4.5 40 yard dash time was the envy of many RB’s and WR’s. Seahawks blogger Davis Hsu pointed out that, “Bruce Irvin 2012 3cone of 6.7 was the fastest for DL & LB, would have been the 3rd fastest WR, 2nd fastest RB, 3rd fastest S, 5th fastest CB” and I wish I had seen it at the time because the more I read it the more impressed I am. That being said, we didn’t know if Irvin had the pass rushing repertoire to turn that crazy athleticism into legitimate production. So far he’s proven his doubters wrong on that point.
So is Bruce Irvin a one-dimension player? At this point yes. Is his effectiveness limited to a few situations? Also yes. But has he been an effective player for the Seahawks this year? Absolutely yes. In an NFL that is becoming more and more dominated by the passing game there is nothing wrong with being situational pass rusher. In fact, it is important enough that using a first round pick on such a player is looking wiser by the day. I don’t think the Seahawks front office would take the Irvin pick back if they could and I doubt many fans would either. It’s early in the season, and even earlier in his career, but even if Irvin never transcends his current role he has the chance to be an exciting player, potentially even a star, for a long time. I was scared that Irvin was going to be an Aaron Maybin type when he was drafted, and it is possible he will regress to the level of the famous draft bust, but I think it’s more likely he is en route to becoming the player Maybin should have been. When asked to describe his game Bruce Irvin once said, “I love eating quarterbacks.” Here’s to hoping the man never goes on a diet.