In 2017, Bruce Irvin was just a part-time pass rusher. As an outside linebacker in the Raiders defense, Irvin had responsibilities in pass coverage and setting the edge against the run.
Yet even in limited pass-rush attempts, Irvin was effective, with eight sacks and 40 quarterback pressures, which ranked 14th among all NFL linebackers.
Now, as the Raiders prepare to open training camp on July 25, Irvin’s role will be much different this summer as a full-time defensive end. Coordinator Paul Guenther believes Irvin will make a huge impact in the pass rush, where he believes Irvin is among the NFL’s most talented players.
“Obviously, we know what he can do as a pass rusher,” Guenther told reporters recently. “Hopefully we can get him over a double-digit (sack) mark this year. That’s the goal for him.”
Irvin came into the league from West Virginia as a touted pass rusher, but in both Seattle and Oakland he took on other responsibilities as a linebacker. He’s had a career high of eight sacks in two seasons, including his rookie year. Now Guenther says he wants Irvin “to go forward rather than go backwards” as a defensive end.
If Guenther is correct and Irvin is the perfect complement to defensive end Khalil Mack on the other side, the Oakland pass rush could be much better in 2018. Especially, too, if another pass rusher emerges.
Wrote Kevin Patra of NFL.com Tuesday: “With Mack and Irvin as a potent one-two punch, the Raiders will look for a third-fiddle primarly from a group of rookies on the defensive line in Arden Key (edge), P.J. Hall (tackle) and Maurice Hurst (tackle) to push the pocket.”