The Seattle Seahawks made a surprising decision this offseason to convert Bruce Irvin from defensive end to strong-side linebacker.
Irvin had led all rookies in 2012 with eight sacks as a situational pass rusher after being selected with the 15th pick in the draft. However, when Chris Clemons was lost for the remainder of the postseason to an ACL tear against the Washington Redskins, Irvin struggled as an every down defensive end.
The Atlanta Falcons rushed for 167 yards against Seattle’s usually strong rush defense as the undersized Irvin struggled to hold up at the point of attack in the running game.
Seattle elected to move Irvin off the line of scrimmage and better utilize his speed and athleticism at linebacker. Irvin has been impressive at his new position. In four games since returning from a suspension to start the season, Irvin has racked up 19 tackles with two sacks and the first interception of his career.
Irvin believes the position change has been a big positive for him so far this season.
“I tell (linebackers coach) Ken Norton (Jr.) everyday ‘you saved my life. You saved my career making me a linebacker.’ I thank him every day and I just got to keep working hard to make him feel like he made the right decision,” Irvin said.
Against the St. Louis Rams on Monday night, Irvin had arguably his best game as a professional. He had nine tackles, a sack and an interception of Kellen Clemens on a pass intended for tight end Jared Cook 30 yards down field.
“Bruce had a fantastic game for us. he was all over the place, he had eight (solo) tackles, and he had a sack and a forced fumble and a pick,” head coach Pete Carroll said. “He just looked really comfortable playing the position and all of the different things that we’re doing with him. If there was a thought that this was an experiment at one time, it’s totally working out and we’re really excited about what he’s doing.”
Irvin initially was a safety at Mount San Antonio before being moved to the defensive line. Carroll had recruited Irvin while at USC before he elected to play his college football at West Virginia. He believes the move to linebacker allows him to show off more of his ability.
“I think it shows that I’m capable of doing more than just coming in on third downs or passing situations and rushing the passer, I can drop (into coverage). I’ve got a chance to show I can make open field tackles. Man-to-man containing the running backs, rushing the tight ends and the running backs. It’s more of a complete position than being a specialist as I was last year.”