The Bruce Irvin experiment at outside linebacker has been the subject of speculation for the past few months and whether it's technically news or not, Eric Williams seemed to officially call it a 'position change' in his column on the Seahawks' defensive line (as pointed out by Jon) this morning. This started some cool discussions in our comments section and on Twitter, with two common player type comparisons being made - Denver's Von Miller and Green Bay's Clay Matthews.
As Thomas wrote this morning, this Irvin move might "mean Seattle plays a lot of 5-2. The Packers played a ton of 5-2 with Clay Matthews III and I think Pete envisions Irvin in that CM3 role in it." He continued, "The differences between the 5-2 and 3-4 are almost academical and can be hard to peg down per team, but in general 5-2 teams put both OLBs on the line and drop them back with less frequency than 3-4 teams, and/or have a dedicated pass-rushing OLB and drop-back OLB (though that then becomes closer to 4-3). I think it might be worthwhile to go back and see how the Pack did it with Matthews since I would not be surprised if Pete has tracked Matthews' NFL career closely and could see similar things from Irvin."
Shortly after drafting Bruce Irvin, Pete Carroll noted - "He's got extraordinary speed, and tremendous flexibility, and great instincts, and a great motor. He has all of the things that make up a great pass rusher, he has length, he's 6'3 with long arms, incredibly getoff is something that we cherish playing here in our stadium. (...) This is the kind of guy that really puts the fear in the offensive tackles. They've got to get off with him because he's so fast. (...) This is a rare chance to get a guy like this, you just don't see many of them."
When asked specifically about Irvin's ability to play as a coverage linebacker, Carroll had some interesting thoughts. "In our scheme, he will drop some. He has not been a feature dropper, has not played linebacker...once they saw him rush in junior college, then saw him rush in college, they don't want him dropping him much. So he's a guy you want to rush. But in our scheme he does drop some. Let me give you an example, at SC we played with Clay Matthews at the exact same position. Clay was a primary rusher but he was a dropped as well at times, a situational dropper, and that's exactly the role we'll put him in here."
This was over a year ago, so the thought of Irvin playing more of a hybrid role is obviously not a new thing.
At that time, John Schneider added, "He's rare. This guy comes off the ball like Dwight Freeney and Von Miller and Jevon Kearse. It's like that." Both Carroll and Schneider noted then that he's run a faster 40 than a 4.4. Carroll called him a "carbon copy" of Von Miller: "We almost could do an overlay from his college rushes. We didn't compare that directly, we went back to him back in college, because they're almost exactly the same size, same everything. What Von has done is he played more linebacker than our guy."
Asked to explain these comparisons more, Schneider answers "We were asked about what his get-off is like. That's what his get-off is like. Now the full compliment of a football player, he has to prove that." With Carroll adding "Check out Von Miller speed, check out Jevon Kearse speed, this is where he is, that realm of get-off. There's very few players who have come along like that." John finished with "What he does after he jumps off the ball is up to him." Carroll and Schneider both agree the Seahawks do value him highly because of the Leo spot, but Carroll also adds there's "not a coach in the league that didn't look at this kid and realize he's a unique, special talent".
Again, interesting in the fact that both Schneider and Carroll seem to hammer on the idea that Irvin would not be an ordinary defensive end.
As Cutler put it this morning, "Just the fact that Carroll views Irvin as a similar athlete to Clay Matthews/Von Miller is encouraging because it means that there's a ton of stuff they can borrow from Denver and Green Bay. I'd liken it to Carroll watching RGIII tear up the league with the read option and saying, "Our guy can do that."
I love that. As Cutler pointed out - there's a good article on the 5-2 at Mile High Report (MHR University: The 5-2 Defense - Mile High Report), breaking down how Von Miller was used in their defense.
Anyway, because this was a topic of discussion this morning, I thought it'd be worth pointing to Doug Farrar's segment on the Ian Furness show this afternoon because Farrar geeked out explaining some of the ways that Irvin may be used. It's worth a listen.
Moving Bruce Irvin to OLB makes all the sense in the world. Like Mingo and early Von Miller, more a space player than a contact guy.— SC_DougFarrar (@SC_DougFarrar) July 10, 2013
Often when Irvin was successful on stunts, SEA would set him up like A.Smith in SF. Have the 3-tech occupy the RG/RT, and Irvin shoots in.— SC_DougFarrar (@SC_DougFarrar) July 10, 2013
Von Miller got a lot of his sacks lined up all along the formation with his hand off the ground, reading gaps. That seems to be the model.— SC_DougFarrar (@SC_DougFarrar) July 10, 2013
7-10 Doug Farrar
Doug Farrar of Yahoo Sports Shutdown Corner gives his insights on the NFL’s biggest headline. Is Matthew Stafford worth his new contract? Can Bruce Irvin switch positions for the Seahawks. What will Golden Tate’s new contract look like next offseason?
MORE on Irvin:
Bruce Irvin & the 'spinner' role in the Seahawks' defense - Field Gulls
The Seahawks and the 4-3 Under Front: Winds of change? - Field Gulls
John Schneider and Pete Carroll on Bruce Irvin - Field Gulls