The Seattle Seahawks are making a move that just makes too much sense. Defensive end Bruce Irvin is moving to linebacker. Smart. On paper, it is a great strategic move for a Seahawks team that already has a dominant defense.
Why was this done? Simple. Irvin is an undersized defensive end. Some athletes can obviously get away with being undersized in college, particularly if they go to smaller schools or consistently play against inferior competition. Irvin did adequately at end during his rookie season, racking up eight sacks. A fine number for a rookie.
The problem is that Irvin was not an every-down pass rusher. Nor was he going to be. This was a challenge that was not going to be overcome, simply because Irvin wasn’t going to be getting any bigger. The sacks that Irvin was able to accumulate were due to raw speed and help from the other side. Speed is obviously a factor in the pass rush, but to be a consistent end, you need a bit more bulk.
If Irvin adds bulk, he probably loses speed. Speed is kind of his greatest asset.
Why was this not done earlier? There are a number of factors. The Seahawks already had three starting linebackers, and Irvin was drafted as a defensive end. Now, Leroy Hill is gone and K.J. Wright has switched from strong to weak-side linebacker. The door is open for Irvin to slide into the strong-side position.
This also helps relieve a bit of a logjam at defensive end, though there are still questions. Is Chris Clemons going to be healthy and will he ever return to full strength? Will Michael Bennett play inside or outside? Will Cliff Avril be as productive without the talented defensive tackles on the Detroit Lions that may have helped him get sacks?
Questions, questions. Some will just have to be answered on the field.
Will this work? Again, on paper this is a good move. Irvin has the speed, strength and proper size (6’3”, 248 pounds) to play linebacker. The Seahawks like fast linebackers, so this may be a very natural transition for Irvin. That said, there is a different mentality to playing linebacker. Irvin will have to adjust his strategic thinking. How will he handle a running back that breaks through the line or a receiver on a crossing route?
Time will tell if this is a good transition, but Irvin will not be the first undersized pass rusher that switched to linebacker. Granted, the Seahawks will need to wait and see if this can experiment can work. Irvin still needs to serve his four-game suspension to start the season. Malcolm Smith, you are up.
This has all the makings of a brilliant move by the Seahawks if Irvin can adjust his thinking and apply the same pass-rushing ferocity to the linebacker position. Some fans were sure that the Seahawks were going to draft a linebacker to replace Leroy Hill. Little did they know that K.J. Wright was going to replace Hill and Irvin was going to replace Wright.
Maybe this was the plan all along. Well played, Pete Carroll. Well played.