ALAMEDA – Bruce Irvin is playing the best football of his career. The Raiders have benefitted from that fact, featuring an edge rusher who can create havoc opposite Khalil Mack.
Irvin has been on a tear lately, with five sacks in his last six games. Several of them have come late in games, with pressure that helped the Raiders beat Houston and San Diego.
Irvin’s effort against the Chargers was essential to Sunday’s 19-16 victory. He had six tackles and two sacks against San Diego, and had pressure on a pass that led to Reggie Nelson’s game-sealing interception.
That defensive performance was the AFC’s best, worthy of the conference’s defensive player of the week award. The league announced the honor on Wednesday morning.
Irvin has proven an excellent addition to the Raiders defensive front, one of 2016’s strongest free-agent signings.
“From the moment that Bruce arrived, he and Khalil had a natural competition or natural kind of bond where they were two alpha males. They were going to push each other really hard every day and compete every day. Bruce has been tremendous for and a really good addition to the football team.”
Irvin has been a solid leader and performer on this defense, with 51 tackles, seven sacks, five forced fumbles and 40 other quarterback pressures.
The fifth-year veteran believes this will be his finest complete season yet.
“I would say so, as far as me being a complete player against the run and dropping in coverage,” Irvin said. “I’ve done a good job of what’s being asked of me, and I have to continue to grow within my role. I want to keep getting better.”
Irvin cares about wins most of all, but he also wants his first double-digit sack total as a professional.
“I definitely want to get that,” Irvin said. “I definitely…I’m going to get it.”
That would mark a career high and a significant accomplishment considering he spends 11 percent of passing downs in coverage. That’s his lowest percentage since 2012, when he was a rotational pass rusher in Seattle – he was a more protypical outside linebacker in three seasons after that -- but it still adds dimension to his position rushing predominantly from the weak side.
Irvin was asked why this season has been his best, and it’s more than how he’s being used.
“It’s a clear mind,” Irvin said. “I’m just worried about football, and I’m getting all the other stuff that doesn’t matter out of my life. I’m committing myself to this team, this organization and trying to put forth the best performance I can. I’m feeling it right now, and I’m also preparing hard during the week and translating things well on game day.”
As a former member of the vaunted Seattle defense for four seasons, Irvin is often asked to compared these Raiders to those teams. It’s not his favorite exercise, though there’s reason to believe this defense could grow into a strong unit.
“I hate always comparing us to Seattle,” he said. “We’re Oakland. We’re trying to build our legacy and watch our defense and be like us. Seattle is a good defense. We’re also a good defense, an up-and-coming defense that will continue to make strides to become who we want to be.”