#HawksMailbag - October 1: Where will Bruce Irvin fit in?

Posted Oct 1, 2013

Answering your on the field and off the field questions about the club on a weekly basis.

Welcome to another week of #HawksMailbag here on, our weekly question and answer session with you - the fans - about your club - the Seattle Seahawks.

We fielded several of your questions on Twitter following the Seahawks 23-20 Week 4 victory over the Houston Texans, and we take some time out on this Tuesday afternoon to provide some answers.

This question - or a variation of it - was pretty common this week, and for good reason. Fans are excited about the return of Bruce Irvin - last year's first-round draft pick who led all rookies in sacks (8.0) and whose speed rushing the passer off the edge is unmatched on the Seahawks roster. But where will he play?

Well, Irvin spent much of the offseason and preseason working to transition to the role of outside linebacker, where the team eventually hopes he can start. The Seahawks are aiming to get Irvin's extreme athleticism on the field more during first and second downs after he spent much of 2012 as a third-down specialist with the one objective being to get to the quarterback. Now, in addition to rushing the passer, Irvin will be tasked with responsibilities in pass coverage, working on the opposing team's tight ends and running backs coming out of the backfield.

"He’s in good shape, he’s healthy, and he’s worked really hard," Carroll said of Irvin on Monday. "He went back to West Virginia and worked out the whole time. We’ll see how he fits in as we start practice up on Wednesday.”

The Seahawks have done that to a degree, signing rookie offensive tackle Caylin Hauptmann and veteran guard/center Jason Spitz in recent weeks to add depth to the position group. But as far as direct replacements for left tackle Russell Okung and right tackle Breno Giacomini, the team has turned to Paul McQuistan - who moved over from his left guard spot - and rookie Michael Bowie - who the team selected in the seventh round out of Northeastern (Okla.) State. It's expected that those two will remain at the tackle spots going forward, with the possibility of rookie tackle Alvin Bailey getting in on the action if the situation calls for it. McQuistan, Bowie, and Bailey all have spent considerable time in assistant head coach/offensive line coach Tom Cable's zone-blocking system, so the trio's familiarity with the offensive scheme looks to outweigh any available free agents on the market.

Head coach Pete Carroll has said All-Pro/Pro Bowl center Max Unger will work his way back into practice this week with the hope of returning in time for Sunday's road game against the Indianapolis Colts. That's the good news.

Right tackle Breno Giacomini will be a bit longer, as he underwent successful knee surgery on Monday. Carroll did not provide an exact time frame for his return, but sounded optimistic that his recovery would not be too lengthy.

"They [the team doctors] think that he’ll get back in a pretty short time here," Carroll said.

And with left tackle Russell Okung on the team's Injured Reserve/Designated to Return list with a torn tendon in his left toe, the earliest he could return to action is the team's November 17 game against the Minnesota Vikings. A player on the Injured Reserve/Designated to Return list must miss six weeks of practice and eight weeks of games, so depending on how he recovers, Okung could begin practicing with the club two weeks prior to that game against the Vikings.

There's always a chance of that happening. Yet even after all of the things running back Marshawn Lynch has done and will continue to do for the Seahawks offense, it looks like it's going to be hard to top the play of guys like Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, or even Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. The NFL MVP award is traditionally looked at as a "quarterback award," but you can point to just last year when Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson outclassed Manning to earn the League's top honor.

I would put Lynch alongside Wilson as two (of many) top candidates for team MVP through four games this season. Our Digital Media Reporter Clare Farnsworth has a little bit more on that tough topic.

Head coach Pete Carroll acknowledged that linebacker K.J. Wright did injure his shoulder last Sunday against the Texans, but he was able to return to the game.

"He has a little history there," Carroll said of Wright's shoulder injury. "He knew what had happened and he just needed to get settled down and came back in.”

We'll find out more on Wright's availability for Week 5 when the team returns to the practice field this Wednesday.

There's no denying rookie running back Christine Michael's talent. He excelled in preseason play and generated local and national buzz alike with his physical, explosive play style as he garnered the bulk of the rushing attempts over incumbent starter Marshawn Lynch, who the club chose to rest, and the then-dinged-up Robert Turbin.

Despite Michael's talent, head coach Pete Carroll has said Michael has work to do in terms of reading things properly on offense. That development has limited Michael's playing time in his first year and it's for that same reason that it's a little unfair to compare Michael to the work Leon Washington received as a change of pace back behind Lynch and Turbin a season ago. Washington was in his third year with the Seahawks, was fully familiar with the offense, and displayed a veteran savvy in pass protection that Michael has yet grasp.

This one's not up to me. This one's up to the fans. And as usual, Seahawks fans are chiming in loudly, having donated more than $5,000 to the NFL's Kick Hunger Challenge - more than any other team as of this writing.

If you're not familiar with the challenge, the NFL has teamed with its clubs in the fight against hunger. One-hundred percent of your donations to Seattle's team page will be distributed to Food Lifeline to support food banks in the local Seahawks community.

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