Last offseason, the Raiders signed Bruce Irvin to a four year $39 million dollar contract. A $10 million a year salary is a pretty good indicator of the team’s expectations for Irvin. He has thus far lived up to those expectations and would have been more widely celebrated if not for the presence of the otherworldly Khalil Mack.
During the 2016 season Irvin accumulated 57 tackles and 7 sacks. His relentless pursuit also lead to an incredible 6 forced fumbles. One of the more notable forced fumbles he had was one he created in the week 15 victory over the then San Diego Chargers.
On a 3rd and 10, Irvin came on a DE stunt forcing Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers to dump the ball off to his running back in the flat. The running back was able to break the tackle attempt of Raiders safety Reggie Nelson and had open space to pick up the first down.
Irvin, however, had continued his pursuit on the play. He was able to punch the ball out of the running backs hands from behind. When a ball carrier fumbles the ball forward and out of bounds, the ball is marked down at the spot of the fumble. This made it 4th and 1 instead of the first down the Chargers looked like they had secured.
Mack and Irvin were both great in the run game, but again it is Mack who gets most of the attention. Like every team sport it takes every player doing their job for the team to succeed. Mack is not doing it single handily but it isn’t always easy to see more than who actually made the tackle. The guys doing their job that put that player in position to make the tackle can go overlooked.
Like on this run from the Raiders week 7 win over the Jaguars.
On this play Irvin is able to control the guard on this “pull and pin” zone run. By forcing the guard back into the run lane, Irvin slowed the running back allowing Mack to make the tackle. Mack’s backside pursuit wouldn’t have gotten there in time without Irvin holding the point of attack.
Of course Irvin isn’t paid nearly $10 million a year just to stop the run. The Raiders are looking for sacks. Something Irvin was more than capable of creating.
Here is one of the numerous times his effort went relatively unnoticed because it led to someone else making a big play.
It was his pressure on Rivers that lead to Nelsons game sealing interception. The Raiders won this game 19-16 and with it punched their ticket to the playoffs.
There is a ton of great talent on the roster and the team will of course perform best when it functions together. Like on this run stuff from the Raiders 3-4 under front.
Irvin has great backside pursuit, the full back barely touches Mack, and they meet at the running back.
The Raiders are being picked by fans and the media alike to have a great 2017 season. They are fortunate to have a game wrecker as well as a great leader in Khalil Mack. Just don’t let the vast shadow he casts cause you to miss guys like Irvin who help make those plays happen.