Being part of a Super Bowl winning defense often means that there’s less pressure on each individual player to carry the brunt of the load. In Seattle during Bruce Irvin’s time there, he was part of a defense chock full of All Pro talent.
The year they won the Super Bowl was his first as a full time starter. And the team had a glut of pass rushers like Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, and Chris Clemons. Irvin had just 2.0 sacks that season and none in the playoffs and it was ok.
This young Raiders team will be looking for a lot more from him.
"You could say that, coming in from another team," Irvin of his increased responsibility in Oakland. "I’ve been in the league for five years now. I’ve been to two Super Bowls, so I’ve got a pretty nice deal. So, there’s always expectations."
What the Raiders will hope to get from him is not dissimilar to what they hoped to get from Khalil Mack last season. They said several times last offseason they would be making a point to put Mack in position to get to the quarterback more often. The result was 15.0 sacks; second most in the league. Along with being named All Pro at two different positions – defensive end and linebacker.
The thought of having the kind of season Mack had in 2015 has Irvin – a former defensive end – salivating. Those opportunities to rush the passer will come not only from scheme, but from having Mack taking pressure on the other side of the line.
"They’re going to use me more going forward," Irvin said. "They’re going to use my skill set more than Seattle did. Like I said, I’ve been put in a great situation and I think I made the best decision for me, my wife and my son, and we’re happy to be here."
Unlike his time in Seattle, this young, rebuilt Raiders team will absolutely be relying on him to help take the defense to the next level. Both as a pass rusher and as an outspoken leader – a role to which Irvin said recently; "They didn't bring me here to be a follower."
No, Irvin, they didn’t. They brought you here to be a major piece in helping lead this team back to contending for the playoffs. Raising expectations to that of a foundation piece of a rising team.