Oakland Raiders linebacker Bruce Irvin appears confident about his new team's playoff chances this upcoming season, as he sees his team breaking out in 2016.
Irvin, who signed with Oakland during the offseason, said he was brought in to be a leader for a young team. The former Seattle Seahawks defender feels the Raiders are ready to take the next step, per ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez:
You have a lot of guys who are willing to listen to the older guys, so that’s the greatest thing about coming to a situation like this ... I have to say, it’s a bunch of guys who are hungry. They are ready to take the next step. We know what we have to do. We’ve seen the blueprint to win a Super Bowl -- it’s running the ball and playing great defense. I think we are ready to take that next step and really capture this AFC West.
Oakland has not made the playoffs since appearing in the Super Bowl during the 2002 campaign.
Irvin went on to say the key for Seattle's recent success, besides talent, was that everybody was on the same page and playing for one another. He sees a similar attitude in Oakland.
The Raiders will hope Irvin, who has 22 sacks in four NFL seasons, can take some pressure off young All-Pro Khalil Mack. Irvin commented that he feels the two will blend well together to improve the team's pass rush.
"On the field, [Mack] is more power, and I’m more of a speed guy," Irvin said, per Gutierrez. "I think we’re a great complement to each other. I really expect us to do a lot of great things this year.”
Last week, Irvin elaborated on how the two will coexist, per CSNCalifornia.com's Scott Bair:
Mack was excellent for Oakland last season, as the 25-year-old racked up 15 sacks and 77 tackles. Irvin is not the only teammate who has confidence in Mack, as quarterback Derek Carr told Adam Schein on Sirius XM Radio's Schein on Sports that he believes the pass-rusher could push for 30 sacks next season (via CBS Sports' Will Brinson).
Irvin joins another former Seahawks defender who thinks his new team is ready to make some noise. Brandon Mebane, who signed with the San Diego Chargers, said earlier this month that his new defense has more natural talent than Seattle's, per the San Diego Union-Tribune's Michael Gehlken.
There could be an opportunity for Oakland to surprise in the AFC West. The Denver Broncos will be working with a new quarterback after Peyton Manning's retirement, as well as Brock Osweiler's departure, and the Chargers are coming off a rough 4-12 campaign.
The Raiders have a young core and have been improving, as they won seven games last season after posting three victories in 2014. If it continues to grow, Oakland could challenge Denver and the Kansas City Chiefs for the division crown.
All statistics are courtesy of ESPN.com.