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What a week! Now anything seems possible in Seattle sports 12/06, 09:24 PM
Whoa, baby: Bruce Irvin finally flashes talent in a game, compares it to having a newborn
At last, Seahawks defensive end Bruce Irvin received the confirmation he had sought all preseason. It came in the form of one loud, unified roar.
"Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuce!" fans chanted at CenturyLink Field on Thursday night after he recorded a sack.
Irvin lives to hear Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuce!. It signified collegiate success at West Virginia, and he promised the Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuce! chant would find its way to Seattle. After three and a half stressful games of wanting to prove himself, the rookie could finally relax.
Irvin recorded one and a half sacks in the second half against Oakland on Thursday. He just missed another sack, too. And in the first half, he and linebacker Mike Morgan helped force a Roscoe Parrish fumble on a punt return, which Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner recovered.
Until this outburst against reserves and roster hopefuls, Irvin hadn't registered any statistics during the preseason. No tackles, no sacks -- nothing -- in the first three exhibition games.
Were you worried? Seahawks coach Pete Carroll wasn't. He said on Wednesday that Irvin had been the Seahawks' most productive defensive player over the course of six weeks of practices. The speed rusher just hadn't seen the success in a game.
He didn't need a preseason sack for validation. It's the preseason. It doesn't count. But at least he'll go into the regular season having flashed his potential and unburdened himself of the pressure to do something to live up to his surprise selection as the No. 15 overall pick in last April's NFL draft.
Now, he can just play.
"I felt like I had a newborn baby, man," Irvin said when asked about his breakthrough. "It felt good."
Sure, most of his best moments Thursday didn't come against Oakland's top-shelf players. He'll get to prove what he can do against starting offensive linemen next week in Arizona.
"You can see the flair that he has," Carroll said. "It's because of that marvelous speed that he has coming off the edge. He practiced well this week. It seems like it kind of came together. He's getting better, and he has so much talent. If he factors somewhere down the road this season like that in games, it will be awesome."
Sports Illustrated's Peter King offered strong praise for Irvin this week, predicting he'll be the defensive rookie of the year. Too optimistic? Well, we'll see.
Drafting Irvin was perhaps the most scrutinized of all the Seahawks' draft moves. But his raw talent is incredible, and for a team that struggled with its pass rush, Irvin's speed off the edge is a welcome sight and a key to the Seahawks defense transitioning from good to great. If he thrives, there's a good chance the Seahawks will fix their pass-rushing issue, provided there's no slippage from Chris Clemons and tackle Jason Jones makes an impact.
In the big picture, Irvin could either validate the Seahawks' unconventional draft methods or fuel more criticism.
What do I think? Irvin is an amazing athlete. He's fast, and I've been impressed with how hard he works. He's raw; he hasn't really come close to figuring out a counter move. But he won't be an opposing offense's focus. If you look at what he might be able to do on passing downs within the framework of a defense that will apply pressure in many different ways, Irvin can thrive in his role. He should have a promising rookie season. He'll probably get his sacks in streaks, but most speed rushers are that way.
"I just feel like I'm comfortable now," Irvin said. "Those first couple of games, I didn't know what to expect. But I settled in the past two weeks, and I just kept busting my butt, and it paid off for me."
The Seattle version of the Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuce! chant was born on Thursday night. It felt good. It'll feel even better if it carries over to the regular season.