When the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers square off in Week 2 at CenturyLink Field, Seattle will be without sack specialist Bruce Irvin. The second-year pro was suspended for the first four games of the 2013 season for violating the league’s performance enhancing drug policy. This NFC West showdown is sure to be intense, but how does Irvin’s absence affect the 49ers?
Last season, Irvin collected eight sacks during the regular season, placing him second on the Seahawks. In two games against San Francisco, he did not garner a single sack.
Seattle may also be without Chris Clemons (torn ACL and meniscus), who led the team with 11.5 sacks. It’s highly unlikely that he’ll be feeling 100 percent when the two clubs meet on Sunday night. With Irvin and Clemons expected to be out, that’s 19.5 sacks on the sideline. However, the Seahawks replenished their pass rushing needs by adding Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett through free agency. Combined, the two managed 18.5 sacks in 2012.
Although their acquisitions should benefit the Seahawks, losing any dynamic edge rusher in today’s NFL is huge, especially when facing a mobile quarterback like Colin Kaepernick.
Out of Irvin’s eight sacks, six of them came in front of the Seahawks’ home crowd. His play simply elevates to another level when he hears the roar of the “12th Man.” He may not have fared well against the 49ers last year, but Seattle could miss his athleticism when it comes to containing Kaepernick. With the 49ers leaning a bit more on the pass, his void becomes magnified.
Irvin is an emerging pass rusher who has the talent to change the momentum of a game on any given snap. Even if he does not reach the quarterback, he’ll free up his teammates to make plays.
While the Seahawks’ front four remains a dominant part of their defense, the 49ers must take advantage of Irvin’s suspension and turn it in their favor.