ALAMEDA – Edge rusher Bruce Irvin’s role continues to decrease with the Raiders, reaching new lows in recent weeks.
That begs one question: Why phase the team’s only established pass rusher out?
Irvin, with 40 career sacks to his credit, has been used primarily in sub packages. Coach Jon Gruden said Friday that’s why his workload has decreased.
“Well, last night we weren’t in our nickel defense very much,” Gruden said Friday. “Remember we’re a 4-3 team, we’re not a 3-4. So in the base defense, sometimes he doesn’t fit the role that we need done. No disrespect to Bruce. He’s an edge rusher. We haven’t had a lead. We haven’t had the opposition behind in the chains a lot. So his role has been reduced. I know he’s frustrated. I’m frustrated. We’ll try to solve that as soon as possible. He’s a good player. He’s a good player.”
Irvin was an edge rusher at strong-side linebacker in Jack Del Rio’s scheme the last two years, but was moved to the front in Paul Guenther’s more traditional 4-3 base alignment. Irvin is generally regarded as a quality run player, though at 250 pounds is a bit small to play on the strong side in the base defense.
There is one problem with chalking up Irvin’s lack of playing time to an issue of which packages are on the field.
The Raiders played 23 defensive snaps in the nickel package Thursday night. Irvin was only involved in seven of those plays. His two other snaps came in a goal-line defense.
Irvin has been limited in practice with a pectoral injury, and last week Gruden said Irvin was dealing with a shoulder issue.
Clinton McDonald started at end along with Frostee Rucker. Rucker has played there during a long career, though McDonald is playing out of position there after typically playing three technique.
“We need somebody to line up on the tight end and jolt the tight end,” Gruden said. “We need somebody that can play on the edge and really be a factor, bend the edge, don’t let the ball get to the corner and credit to him, he’s been able to do a pretty good job of it. But to answer your question, outside of Frostee Rucker, we’re still looking for guys that can bend the edge and be a factor on the running game, particularly on the strong side where the tight end is.”