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Focus on: Bruce Irvin
Monday was the first off day for the players at Seahawks training camp, so it also marked the first day since camp opened last Thursday that Bruce Irvin didn’t do something impressive on the practice field.
Last year’s first-round draft choice has been splitting time between the Leo end spot, where he collected eight sacks last season to lead all NFL rookies; and strong-side linebacker. Whether coming or going, Irvin has been making plays.
Thursday, in the first practice of camp, he chased rookie running back Christine Michael 40 yards down field and knocked the ball from the grasp of this year’s top draft choice – a never-say-never effort that ignited chants of “Bruuuuce” from the 2,800 fans who packed the berm at Virginia Mason Athletic Center.
Friday, Irvin got to the quarterback for one of the “sacks” that helped the defense dominate the two-minute drill.
Saturday, he stopped a running play before it could get started with his explosive penetration into the backfield.
Sunday, Irvin tore it up in the one-on-one pass-rush drill and had another play where he got to the ball carrier behind the line of scrimmage.
It was this versatility – with the hope of that kind of productivity – which prompted the coaches to have Irvin start working at linebacker this spring during the offseason program and OTA practices.
“After watching him for a year, he showed tremendous versatility,” coach Pete Carroll said the other day. “We were wondering if he would be able to move around a little bit, and he’s doing it really well. He’s had no problems.”
In part, because Irvin attacked the challenge during the offseason the way he got after the opposing passer as a rookie.
“Bruce had a really good offseason,” Carroll said. “He’s studied and he really did well in the OTAs and all. He really looks comfortable. It allows us to use him as an outside rusher, just like we had done before; use him in coverage sometimes and try to put him in position to really take advantage of his overall ability.
“So we are really excited about this transition.”
So much so that Carroll didn’t flinch when someone asked about the comparisons to Von Miller, who has 30 sacks in his first two seasons with the Denver Broncos – including 18.5 last season.
“Very similar,” Carroll said – which really is saying something. “If you go back and look at their numbers and the kind of athletes those two guys are – their size and speed – they are very similar. When we were looking at Bruce, I looked at (Miller) to make sure that we could project him properly and I thought that they were really similar in their makeup.”
Similar, as in: Irvin is 6 feet 3, 248 pounds; Miller 6-3, 240. Similar, as in: Irvin ran the 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds at the Scouting Combine last year; Miller was clocked at 4.49 seconds during his Pro Day workout in 2011.
First-year defense coordinator Dan Quinn wasn’t around for Irvin’s rookie season, so his first impressions came from watching game video.
“I guess the first thing that jumped out was a guy who had really good initial quickness,” Quinn said. ““That’s one of those things that are really easy to see when you watch the tape.”
Quinn coached the Seahawks’ D-line in 2009-10 before leaving to become the defensive coordinator at the University of Florida the past two seasons. And Irvin also has a new position coach, as Travis Jones was hired to coach the line when Todd Wash followed Gus Bradley to Jacksonville after the former D-coordinator was hired as the Jaguars head coach in January.
“For us, building that relationship through the spring and getting the chance to work with him and that kind of stuff, he’s come back in terrific shape and got his mind right to have a terrific year,” Quinn said.
The proof has been in Irvin’s practice field efforts, regardless of where he lines up.