Bruce Irvin was definitely the first name in the first round that sent more casual fans of the draft scrambling for details. The pass-rush specialist went higher than the most of the draft community anticipated, at least in part because of the need for pressure on the quarterback in a league that gets more pass-happy every year.
Irvin also made sense for the Seahawks because they don't necessarily need an every-down end. Some of his weaknesses will be hidden by the way the Seahawks use massive Red Bryant as an end on running downs, but what about the downs that Seattle is paying the big money for, the passing downs? For this exercise, I watched Irvin's film from the 2012 Orange Bowl vs Clemson, a game that saw Irvin's West Virginia Mountaineers put 70 points on the board.
Irvin is not going to win any battles of strength against offensive tackles. He'll be facing better quality competition than he did this night, and he was still rubbed out of any play that saw the tackle get their hands on Irvin. He was a non-factor on the few running plays he saw, including a long touchdown that went right through his gap. In general, Irvin gets manhandled by his opponent in close quarters:
Irvin is a bit of a one-trick pony. You don't see much in the way of effective swim, rip, hump or spin moves in his pass-rush repertoire. What you do see is a speed rush better than any other player in the draft, and while that's a valuable commodity, it can be neutralized because Irvin isn't that skilled at "turning the corner."
Here, Irvin gets the step on the offensive tackle:
Because he doesn't dip and get low to turn the corner, Irvin has to gather his steps, allowing the offensive tackle to recover and blot him out:
That was against starting left tackle Philip Price. Against backup Brandon Thomas, Irvin is able to get a step once again:
This time, when he gathers to get the quarterback in his sights, he finds his target:
Other than his speed rush, Irvin's attack instincts separate him from the pack. On this play, his initial pass rush was unsuccessful. This brings up another big plus in Irvin's scouting report: He can run and break down in the open field like a linebacker. Irvin's speed allows him to catch the quarterback. His natural strip/sack instinct allows him to force a fumble that helps West Virginia pulls away:
That's really the only difference-making play Irvin notches in this blowout. The Seahawks would probably be happy with one splashy play a game when Irvin is a rookie, but you have to wonder if he can provide that when a college left tackle basically corralled him for the entire game despite playing from behind. Price was able to guide Irvin harmlessly past the quarterback or easily stop him cold on any non-speed rush tactic he tried.
History may look back kindly on the Seahawks' surprise selection of Irvin, but if he plays the way he did on this night, it'll go down as the reach many thought it was when it was announced.
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