The Elephant in the Locker Room: Does Anyone Else Miss a Particular Linebacker?
By Greg Wright
I’ve got to say that it’s really satisfying to call a game almost perfectly, missing the final score by only two total points. And also nice to see the Seahawks win it convincingly, rather than relying on improbable goal-line karate chops or desperation throws 35 yards downfield in OT. No yearning for miracles here.
But I had a really odd sensation watching the game last week.
I really missed Bruce Irvin.
And it’s funny, but nobody is talking much about his performance this season, despite the volume of sports prose expended on him since he was Seattle’s first-round draft pick in 2012, 15th overall.
His first season, he led all rookies in sacks with eight as a platooning defensive end. But Irvin did not show any signs of becoming an every-down player, and often looked outmanned and outwitted. I’ll never forget hearing him interviewed on ESPN Seattle 710 late that season wearily talking about how beat up he felt. The tone of his voice clearly said, “I don’t see making a career of this.”
Then he began his sophomore season by missing four games to a PED suspension. (Remember those epidemic days, Seahawk fans?) When he came back he began his run at becoming a linebacker, the only thing that allowed him to stick on a talent-crowded roster the Super Bowl-bound 2013 season. While he showed some spark, though, he still didn’t look like anything like a down-in, down-out, season-in, season-out ‘backer.
2014 was an improvement–but there still were games where he appeared to be a complete non-factor. The season ended with a silly and disgraceful personal foul and ejection to conclude a disappointing Super Bowl loss to New England… followed by the ignominious distinction of not having his rookie option year picked up by the Seahawks. He responded by unwisely mouthing off in the media, which promptly started fanning the “Bruce wants out of Seattle” flames.Thence proceeded the media outpouring of final pronouncements about the draft bust that Bruce Irvin obviously turned out to be.
Ah, but what a genius move by the Seahawks front office. Since discovering that his tenure with the Seahawks–and his NFL career–might be coming to a close, that he wasn’t one of “our guys” like Sherman, Chancellor, Wagner, Wright, or Thomas, that he was the disrespected also-ran of a title-town D, Bruce Irvin has finally found his groove and rediscovered his love of the game.
Call it motivational management.
In 2015, as a bona-fide linebacker who also has the skills to rush the passer as a down-lineman, Irvin is finally the every-down dual-threat player that consistently will cause disruption for opposing offenses. His experience and quickness get him all around the QB on passing downs. His speed and coverage skills aid in schemes to shut down slot receivers and tight ends. And his strength and agility allow him to both hold the edge on off-tackle rushes and most often make the tackle as well.
The last two weeks, as I watched Frank Clark gamely try to play the edge against San Francisco as well as Irvin does, or wished we had another long-armed body swiping at Carson Palmer in the late going against Arizona, I realized… I really like Irvin now, and the way he fits in to the Seahawks’ linebacking corps.
Anybody with me?
Here’s hoping we get Irvin back next week, and that we won’t miss him too badly against the less-than-mobile aging body that Ben Roethlisberger is.
I really do think the Seahawks have found their groove, and Thomas Rawls is for real. And it’s a really, really good time for Seattle to be hitting its offensive stride, because Pittsburgh’s passing attack is going to be a huge challenge for what is now Seattle’s weak spot, the corners and nickle.
Still, I think it’s also finally time for a breakout performance by the Legion and Co. Welcome back, Jeremy Lane?
Seattle 28, Pittsburgh 20.
After two Super Bowl appearances in a row, everyone’s paying attention… yet even with all the scrutiny, it seems that there’s always some key issue that’s getting glossed over. It’s the elephant in the locker room, if you will, and gosh darn if I’ll let that ride. Join us on Saturday mornings for a little closer look at our NFC West Champions.