(Photo by Kevin Casey/Getty Images)
By Nate Hanson, Sports Radio KJR
Training camp is only two weeks away for the Seattle Seahawks. Eric Williams of The News Tribune explained to The Furness Show why the Seahawks are moving Bruce Irvin to outside linebacker.
"What they're [Seahawks] trying to do is get their best 11 defenders on the field for the majority of the time," Williams said.
The Seahawks defense struggled to stop the run in the divisional playoff loss at Atlanta. Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers ran for 162 yards on 24 carries, an average of 6.7 yards per carry. Irvin took the brunt of the criticism for Atlanta’s rushing success. He stepped in for Chris Clemons, who suffered a torn ACL the previous week in a win against Washington.
The issue was not Irvin’s talent. It was his position. Irvin is not a run stopper. Before the Falcons game, Irvin was on the field for eight rushing plays all season. His greatest strength is his pass-rushing ability. He led all rookies with eight sacks last season. Irvin will remain a main pass rusher on third down, which will likely force him to take some snaps on the defensive line. But at least those snaps would be during obvious throwing situations when Irvin can solely focus on chasing down the quarterback.
"It's about protecting him a little bit and putting him in the best position possible where he has the best matchup to get to the quarterback," Williams said.
The Seahawks bolstered its defensive line in the offseason after coming up with only 36 sacks last year, which ranked 18th in the NFL. The team signed Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, who combined for 18.5 sacks last season. Rookie defensive tackles Jordan Hill and Jesse Williams are expected to add needed depth to the front four. The offseason additions allow the Seahawks to move Irvin to the linebacker core.
"You get him outside the formation a little bit more, let him play in space...and I think it’s a better matchup for him in run defense," Williams said.
Irvin will miss the first four games of the season for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy. Once he returns, Irvin is expected to compete for a starting spot at outside linebacker with Malcolm Smith. Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll thinks Irvin will make the transition seamlessly.
“He’s really fast,” Carroll said. “He’s 250 pounds, and he’s exactly fitting the right kind of body tope to play outside backer in the 3-4 system. We’re a 4-3 personnel system that plays 3-4 looks. He’s extremely valuable for us.”
Dropping back in coverage and defending the pass will be Irvin’s greatest learning curve. Endurance is also a concern. He played less than 50 percent of the snaps during his rookie campaign.
Carroll has received acclaim for putting his players in a position to show off their strengths. This move would fall under that category. It is up to Irvin to make the most of it. If he does, the Seahawks defense will be even more lethal.
You can listen to the entire interview here: