Atlanta Falcons fans are salivating just at the thought of the team acquiring a young edge-rusher to add to its woeful pass rush.
Names like Michael Johnson (Cincinnati Bengals), Brian Orakpo (Washington Redskins), Jadeveon Clowney (South Carolina), Anthony Barr (UCLA) and Khalil Mack (University of Buffalo) have all been bandied about ad nauseum.
While each of those aforementioned pass-rushers would be a wonderful addition to the red and black, the Seattle Seahawks' hybrid wrecking machine, Bruce Irvin, might be the player that would take Atlanta's defense to awesome new heights.
And he could possibly be the most cost-effective.
When Seattle drafted Irvin out of West Virginia University with the 15th selection in the 2012 draft, it had designs on lining him up all over its defensive formation and turning him loose on opposing quarterbacks.
At 6'3", 248 pounds, Irvin is undoubtedly one of the very best athletes in the league—regardless of position. Sporting News indicates that he ran an astonishing 4.43 40-yard dash time at the NFL Scouting Combine and looks as if he's carved out of granite.
As a rookie, Irvin produced eight sacks while operating as a situational pass-rusher on clear passing downs. Seattle runs a 4-3-based defense that incorporates odd-front principles in certain situations.
This meant that Irvin had to rush the passer as a hand-in-the-dirt end, as opposed to the two-point stance outside linebacker that he was projected to be coming out of college.
While Irvin terrorized QBs from his defensive end spot, his extreme deficiencies against the run were never more apparent than in a playoff loss, coincidentally, against the Falcons. The Falcons piled up 167 yards on the ground against Seattle with most of the damage caused by running right at Irvin.
Subsequently, head coach Pete Carroll moved Irvin to outside linebacker in his 4-3 scheme to make use of his uber-athleticism.
Unfortunately, this diminished his role of getting after the QB. With an embarrassment of riches in regard to defensive linemen, the Seahawks can afford to play potentially one of the league's premier pass-rushers as an off-the-ball linebacker.
With an equal amount of riches at the linebacker position, they could theoretically let Irvin go—for the right compensation, of course.
Seattle has two young, stud linebackers in Bobby Wagner (23) and K.J. Wright (24), but it's the emergence of Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith that could potentially make Irvin expendable. Smith originally filled in for Irvin when the former was serving a four-game suspension to begin this season for violating the league's performance-enhancing drugs policy.
Smith also received a chance to fill in for the injured Wright toward the end of 2013 season, playing well at every juncture—culminating in a wonderful Super Bowl performance.
Considering Smith played for Carroll at the University of Southern California and is only 24 years old, it's plausible that his presence would make Irvin expendable.
When you factor in that Smith had 10 tackles, one fumble recovery and one interception (with a 53-yard TD) in the biggest game of the year whereas Irvin only mustered up two tackles, you can plainly see how such a notion comes to be.
Furthermore, playing Irvin anywhere but on the line of scrimmage is a complete waste of talent. That's not to say that Irvin can't get the job done off the ball, it's just that he's a complete backfield disruptor when used to his strengths.
Those strengths happen to mesh extremely well with the Falcons' needs.
Under coordinator Mike Nolan, Atlanta's defense plays in a hybrid even-front alignment that morphs into an odd front on any given snap. An edge-rusher must be able to play in space, drop into coverage and rush from a three- or two-point stance.
To cause further confusion, this player may be asked to play off the ball at times. Additionally, this player also has to have the prerequisite athleticism to blitz on stunts and games (two-man).
Sound familiar? Well, it should to Seattle and West Virginia fans, as those job duties are exactly what Irvin has taken on during his entire college and pro career. His time spent on and off the line makes him a scheme-specific fit like none other in Nolan's defense.
In a division that features tight ends Jimmy Graham (New Orleans Saints) and Greg Olsen (Carolina Panthers), having a physical freak like Irvin assisting in defending them would be worth its weight in gold.
Here, we see Irvin matched up with possibly the fastest tight end in the league in Jared Cook Jr. of the St. Louis Rams. Cook is running an out-and-up route with Irvin giving up outside leverage.
Irvin shades Cook to the outside effectively, making it hard for Cook to run any routes toward the middle of the field. When using this technique you have to be disciplined in your mechanics, as your change of direction is compromised.
Irvin has excellent bend at the knees, which allowed him to maintain power.
Cook sells the out portion of this double-move route really well. Irvin doesn't buy it, as he trusts his closing ability to make the quick tackle. You would too if you possessed the type of speed he does.
Often as a defender in man coverage, you want to force receiver's hand. Irvin did a great job of staying on top of the route by pressing Cook. As soon as Cook turned his head around, Irvin recognized the route and ran it for Cook.
This led to an easy interception where the tight end didn't have a chance. Having an edge-rusher that can moonlight in coverage would be exactly what the doctor ordered for the red and black.
Irvin's versatility means nothing if he can't get to the passer. The Falcons already have a mediocre—at best— and versatile edge-rusher in Kroy Biermann. They need a player who has the ability to dominate a game from the edges in similar fashion to former Falcon John Abraham.
Irvin has the talent to do so in multiple alignments.
Here's Irvin lined up as a hand-in-the-dirt end against the Green Bay Packers. While Irvin's best position is that of a two-point stance outside linebacker in an odd-front alignment, having him rush from a three-point stance makes use of his power.
Irvin has a great get-off move and can convert speed into power with the best of them.
Here, he took the offensive lineman and put him on skates with one arm. If you've ever stood next to Irvin, he has one of the most impressive physiques in the NFL, as he keeps himself in phenomenal shape.
Irvin broke from the grasp of the lineman and sacked one of the best QBs in the NFL in Aaron Rodgers—something most Falcons fans undoubtedly wish one of their players could've been done in the Falcons' blowout loss to the Packers in the 2010-11 playoffs.
While the Falcons have a chance to draft a premier pass-rusher with the sixth overall selection in the forthcoming draft, they additionally have the unenviable task of filling quite a few gaping holes.
While Irvin was a first-round pick just two seasons ago, he's already undergone a position change and has seen a younger player in Smith shine at his position in the Super Bowl. When you factor in that Smith was a seventh-round pick in 2012, Seattle has a chance to get major production at a cost-effective rate.
In addition to Wagner and Wright, Seattle also has players like Michael Bennett (defensive end), Richard Sherman (corner) and Cliff Avril (defensive end) scheduled to hit free agency within a year—with Bennett being an impending free agent.
If Seattle were to bite on being offered a second-round pick for Irvin, he'd be more than worth it. This would allow the Falcons to still pick one of those pass-rushers or even go for an offensive lineman with the pick.
Since Irvin would arrive in a trade on his rookie contract, it wouldn't affect the cap like, say, adding Orakpo would.
Outside of Clowney, and even that's debatable, there's not a free agent or draft prospect with more athleticism than Irvin and we already know he's a force to be reckoned with in the NFL—which can't be said about any rookie.
Additionally, Irvin was born and raised in Atlanta and would be someone the community could truly get behind, as he's traveled the same roads many of us have. We usually go crazy if a player has ties to the area from having just attended a local college.
Let's get some real "ATLien" blood on our squad. However, let's just make sure he's a budding star like Irvin.
After covering the rival New Orleans Saints for the 2013-14 season, Atlanta native Murf Baldwin returns home to cover his hometown team in 2014. Follow Murf on Twitter and welcome him home.
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