Bruce Irvin has been a strong side linebacker the past three seasons, spent with a Seattle Seahawks defense considered among the NFL’s best.
Irvin manned that post well, but doesn’t believe it maximized his skill set. He believes he spent too much time in pass coverage, hovering around 19 percent the past two seasons and 31.9 percent in 2013. Compared that to his rookie year, with just 2.6 percent of his snaps were spent in coverage, then as a defensive end.
Irvin expects recent coverage totals to decrease after signing a four-year contract with the Raiders worth up to $37 million.
“I was drafted to be a pass rusher and, with the situation in Seattle, they brought in Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett my second year, which pushed me into a linebacker role,” Irvin told SiriusXM NFL Radio on Tuesday afternoon. “I didn’t complain and went with the flow, but now I think (Raiders head coach) Jack Del Rio and Coach Norton are going to let me rush more. I don’t have a problem dropping into coverage, but I would prefer to go forward more than I go backward.
“Coach Del Rio watched film of me and noticed I was dropping in coverage a lot. That’s one of the things he wanted to change.”
That was reported shortly after Irvin signed last week, that the Raiders hoped to bookend Irvin opposite fellow versatile talent Khalil Mack, already respected as one of the league’s premiere pass rushers.
Irvin had 5.5 sacks last year and hasn’t exceeded 6.5 since moving to linebacker in in Seattle’s scheme, which relies heavily on a four-man pass rush. He had eight in his rookie year.
Irvin believes more plays are coming for the Raiders, where he believes he is a better fit.
“I felt like, if I would’ve stayed in that (Seattle) system, I don’t think I ever would be the player I think I can be being a pass rusher,” Irvin said. “Being a SAM outside linebacker is cool, but you can play the whole game at that position and have two tackles. I just want to be utilized and be put in position to make more plays. I think Jack Del Rio and Ken Norton Jr. are going to do a great job allowing me to do that.”
Irvin’s motivation is high this season, with plenty to prove to a new market after signing for a hefty sum.
“The money is cool. Everyone wants to get paid and all that but, at the end of the day, it’s all about the last name on the jersey and the legacy you leave,” Irvin said. “I don’t want to be labeled as a guy who got his money but he didn’t live up to the hype. My first four years aren’t anything compared to what I’m about to do.”