With Chris Clemons out, Bruce Irvin will step in

Posted Jan 7, 2013

Leo end Chris Clemons tore the ACL and meniscus in his left knee during Sunday’s wild-card playoff victory, so first-round draft choice Bruce Irvin will replace him this week against the Falcons.

The Seahawks will take their next step in the NFL postseason without one of their better players and leaders.

Chris Clemons will need surgery, coach Pete Carroll said on Monday, to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament and damaged meniscus in his left knee. The team’s sack leader in each of the past three seasons and a Pro Bowl alternate this season was injured during the third quarter of Sunday’s 24-14 victory over the Washington Redskins in a wild-card playoff game at FedEx Field.

With Clemons out, first-round draft choice Bruce Irvin will start at Leo end in this week’s divisional playoff game against the Falcons in Atlanta.

Clemons had an MRI on Monday which confirmed the extent of the damage to his knee.

“He will have to have surgery,” Carroll said. “So we’ll miss him, which is a big loss for us in a lot of ways. Chris has been a great football player. He’s been just a symbol of consistency for the years we’ve had him.”

Clemons was obtained in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles in March of 2010 to fill the hybrid Leo spot in Carroll’s defense. He led the team with 11 sacks that season and again last year. This season, he produced a career-high 11.5 sacks.

But there is more to Clemons’ game and importance to the team than statistics.

“He’s been a great leader for us, too, and a tough dude,” Carroll said. “He’s a guy we have just become very comfortable playing with. So we’ll miss the heck out of him.”

Irvin was selected with the 15th pick in April’s NFL Draft to complement Clemons in the nickel line used in passing situations, and also as an eventual replacement at the Leo spot. Now, that time has come suddenly, and on the NFL’s biggest stage – the second round of the playoffs.

“Bruce Irvin will step up and take a bunch of those snaps,” said Carroll, adding that rookie Greg Scruggs also will be involved in the rotation and possibly strongside linebackers K.J. Wright and Mike Morgan.

“This is Bruce’s opportunity. It’s what we drafted him to play. We’ll see how he does. We expect him to really play well as he steps up.”

Irvin led all NFL rookies with eight sacks during the regular season and added another after taking over for Clemons against the Redskins.

Where Irvin hasn’t had as much experience is playing against the run. While he is quicker and faster than the 254-pound Clemons, Irvin is six pounds lighter.

“Bruce understands the scheme,” Carroll said. “He’s consistent at staying on the edge. He closes well. The things that that position calls for, he needs to maintain contain on the outside runs your way and you have to chase like crazy on the ball going away. He’s done all of that well.

“We’ll certainly miss Clem, but (Irvin) can hold up his own.”