For three seasons, linebacker Malcolm Smith played alongside Bruce Irvin in Seattle. Now that both will be wearing Raiders uniforms in 2016, Smith is excited for what Irvin will bring to the Oakland defense.
In 2015, Smith earned the starting job at weakside linebacker for the Raiders. Now Irvin figures to be opposite him as the strongside linebacker. Khalil Mack, as he was in 2015, will continue be used both as a defensive end and outside linebacker.
The Raiders coaching staff believes the combination of Irvin and Mack will give the team a dynamic duo of pass rushers, but Smith believes the Raiders are getting much more.
“(He’s a) strong, fast, just really physically impressive, smart player,” Smith said of his former Seattle teammate in an interview this week on 95.7 The Game. “He’s not going to make mistakes. He’s a smart football player. He’s going to get after the quarterback rushing and he’s going to make big plays in big situations. He’s one of those guys that you can expect when the game’s on the line, he’ll bear down and be really close to the quarterback and he’ll get him.”
If Irvin is as good as billed, the Raiders will have added two terrific players from the Seahawks in two seasons. In 2015, Smith earned a starting job in training camp and the former Super Bowl MVP was a playmaker and leader under new defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., also from Seattle. Starting a career-high 16 games – twice the number he’d ever started before – Smith was in on 123 tackles, had four sacks, an interception, six pass deflections and three forced fumbles.
At Seattle, Smith was more of a situational player on a deep, strong Seahawks defense. Once he came to Oakland he fit nicely into an every-down role.
“I come from a place where I was starving for snaps,” he told Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group late last season. “Now I get a ton of them. It’s awesome – a responsibility I’m embracing.”
In 2016, the Raiders hope they will be getting even greater returns from their pair of former Seahawks.