It's Thursday and the knot in my stomach hasn't even begun to grow yet, oddly, and I still can't stop thinking of one particular Seahawk that I envision having a MONSTER game on Sunday. They say that overcoming adversity is one of the key factors in any great man, so then certainly Bruce Irvin is a man. A bad man. In limited snaps this season, the 24 year old Rookie has been remarkably productive. In an unexpected turn of events he now sees his role go from valuable substitute to relied upon starter in a matter of days. Don't worry, he's got this.
By now, everyone knows Bruce's story and why he's a 24 year old Rookie despite his immense talent. No need to rehash the past, especially when it's not even about what happened on the gridiron. Instead, let's focus on the present. Without the press of fellow rookies Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner, Irvin has quietly put up a solid debut season. I'm actually a little surprised that Irvin hasn't gotten more press. Sure, he hasn't had an Aldon Smith type season, but he also doesn't have Justin Smith holding for him on every play. Equally impressive is the fact that Irvin has managed to stay out of trouble and out of any coaches doghouse. Seattle has got to like the early returns from Irvin, especially when you consider his potential. For the record, I'm not one of the people who see's Irvin as a one-trick pony who's as good now as he'll be in 3 years. I think there is some serious potential in Bruce Irvin, if he continues to develop.
Now, the son of Rufus and Bessie Lee gets to come home. A whirlwind journey of a life now gets to add a surreal moment to it's repertoire. All as a member of the Seattle Seahawks, which makes it more surreal for us. When Chris Clemons went down with his season ending knee injury, (thanks for nothing Washington. Seriously. I look forward to the Hawks beating you in the playoffs AGAIN in the near future.) Bruce Irvin stepped right in and the defense did not skip a beat. Actually, the pass rush heated up when Irvin entered the game. No disrespect to Chris Clemons who is a hell of a player and a great Seahawk and one of my favorites, I love his badass sack "dance" pose thing, but athletically Bruce presents certain problems for an offensive lineman that Clem does not.
It's no secret that Bruce' key strength is speed. The LEO position that he'll be occupying is designed to make good use of that speed. Throughout the regular season and even in Washington prior to Clem's injury, Bruce was being relied upon in the "Raheem Brock" role. Basically, the guy opposite of the LEO on mostly passing downs who can help clean up, generate pressure, and come away with sacks. We haven't seen much of Bruce Irvin for extended periods at a time or frequently against the run. It's natural to worry about Irvin's ability in the run game but I think his limited use is definitely by design. Unlike Wilson and Wagner, who were unleashed in "sink or swim" type fashion to some degree, Irvin has been used only in specific situations in an attempt to maximize his production this season. It's worked. This is his moment to break through and shine. History shows that he'll be ready to take it.
Oops, not that kind of history. Although the thought of Russell Wilson connecting with Bruce Irvin on a 61 Yard bomb against the Raiders is amazing! Funny, to this day his preseason game against the Raiders was probably his best game to date as a Seahawk.
Yup, that's Russell Wilson Bruce is taking down. This also shows that Bruce will be ready for this situation as coming into this game he was only being used on 3rd downs to rush the passer and for this bowl game they put him in on 1st and 2nd downs, kind of like what's happening with him now. He'll be going up against former 1st rounder Sam Baker at LT and former Longhorn OG Justin Blalock when working inside on stunts. The 2 help make up a solid line for Atlanta, but not an impenetrable one. Not many offensive lineman are equipped with the tools to handle a 6'3" 245 pounder who can run a 4.5 and claims to run even faster.
When you look at the clip above, you can see how Bruce just stands out. He's insanely quick off the snap and brings a great deal of energy to every snap. Sure, he has his plays where he gets snuffed out, but he's come a long way since this game. As the season progressed, I started to notice that Irvin was adding some more moves to his arsenal. You started to see a bull rush to go along with his awesome spin move and the makings of a pretty solid swim move.
All of this is to say that I think Bruce Irvin will have a phenomenal game on Sunday. Bruce Irvin is big game. He's got a chip on his shoulder the size of Kilimanjaro. He embodies what it is to be a Seahawk. Now, it's his time for him to cement his legacy. As Bruce goes, as go the Seahawks. If he can consistently pressure Ryan, not just sacking him but consistently hitting him and getting inside Sam Baker's head in the process, I can see the Seahawks defense forcing some turnovers and allowing the offense to methodically destroy the Falcons defense. He can help hide Marcus Trufant's shortcomings in the slot and Leroy Hill's weaknesses in coverage by living in the backfield and consistently forcing Matt Ryan to get rid of the ball before he wants to.
All I know is, I'm not betting against the kid getting it done.