Many times did Bruce Irvin credit his former Linebackers coach and Raiders former Defensive Coordinator Ken Norton Jr for saving his career. He credits him for switching him from defensive end, which he played at West Virginia and his first NFL season, to outside linebacker. Now it sounds like his new Defensive Coordinator will be moving him back to defensive end.
“My understanding is they (Raiders) are making some changes no one knows about,” Adam Caplan said on Sirius XM NFL radio. “One of them is Bruce Irvin is mostly going to play defensive end going forward.”
Irvin has at times seemed very much like a defensive end as it is. Though he will occasionally follow a running back or tight end into coverage. A switch would be more playing with his hand in the dirt.
Jon Gruden may have hinted at this move at this year’s scouting combine.
“I like Bruce Irvin, I know Bruce Irvin,” said Gruden. . . “I really think he’s playing a difficult position, because he’s really an edge player. When you ask him to play over the tight end or over the offensive tackle at his size, you can get beat up. But he’s still a very good pass rusher. I think he plays with good effort, we just need to get him some help so he can do the things that he does the best, more often.”
In true Bruce Irvin style, he’s already shown his approval of the move.
No more dropping in coverage— Bruce Irvin (@BIrvin_WVU11) March 17, 2018
Not hard to see the benefit to this. Over the first 11 games under Ken Norton Jr, Irvin had 2.5 sacks. Over the first three games under Pagano, Irvin had 5.0 sacks. According to Pro Football Focus, Irvin played 17.42% of his defensive snaps in coverage in Weeks 1-11 to 6.73% in Weeks 12-15.
A move to defensive end would suggest the team would open things up for them to also field a strong side linebacker, which is what Irvin was labeled. They have added Tahir Whitehead so far in free agency, who could certainly play that position. Then the team could either re-sign NaVorro Bowman to play in the middle and/or select one in the draft.