Draft Spotlight: DE Bruce Irvin

The Bears have shown interest in former West Virginia defensive end Bruce Irvin. We got to the film room to see if he could fill Chicago's need for a pure pass rusher off the edge.

The Chicago Bears re-signed Israel Idonije to a one-year deal this offseason. He's a decent all-around player but at 31 years old, he's no longer a long-term option.

He picked up just 5.0 sacks last season, even though Julius Peppers was garnering all the attention on the other side. Idonije played 944 snaps last season, eighth most in the league amongst 4-3 defensive ends. As a result, he wore down late in the campaign.

Idonije has value for at least one more year as a run stopper and team leader, yet the club would like to reduce his playing time and pair him with a speed rusher off the edge. Idonije would get most of the reps on first and second down, with his partner coming in on passing downs.

Ideally, the speed rusher will be a young player that can pressure the quarterback for years to come. Expect GM Phil Emery to address this need in the draft.

Coach Lovie Smith attended the West Virginia pro day a few weeks ago. He witnessed the workout of DE Bruce Irvin. Obviously, he felt he needed another look.


DE Bruce Irvin
Derick E. Hingle/US Presswire

The Bears have scheduled a private pre-draft workout with Irvin at Halas Hall on April 16.

Irvin (6-3, 245) is an undersized defensive end that was highly productive in college. He had 14 sacks as a junior and 8.5 sacks as a senior, despite working in a rotation. He was second-team All-Big East in 2012 and first team All-Big East in 2011.

His past is worrisome. He had a rough upbringing and served time in juvenile jail. He earned his GED and walked on at Mt. San Antonio Junior College in 2009. He garnered first-team All American status before transferring to Morgantown.

Let's go to the tape to see if Irvin might be able to fill Chicago's need for a young pressure end.

Pros

-Pure speed rusher. Explodes off the line of scrimmage on passing downs.
-Can drop his shoulder and turn the corner on offensive tackles.
-Very fast when closing on the quarterback.
-Outstanding game speed.
-Can drive blockers back when he keeps his pads low.
-Changes directions well.
-Played in a down stance his entire collegiate career. Has experience as a situational pass rusher.
-Diagnoses run plays well. Good read and react time.
-Can penetrate gaps and make plays in the backfield.
-Active hands and quick feet.

Cons

-Undersized and easily run over by bigger offensive linemen.
-Struggles to disengage from blocks.
-Doesn't set the edge well against the run.
-Not a powerful hitter. Lacks ideal strength.
-His speed works against him sometimes, as he often flies right past the quarterback.
-Not a 1st down player.
-May be a better fit as an OLB in a 3-4 defense.
-Character concerns.

Analysis

Questions about his character were exacerbated when Irvin was arrested early last week for destruction of property. He allegedly broke a sign in a Morgantown Jimmy John's.

Team's will have to weigh his troubled past against his potential, which appears to be limitless.

Irvin was a star at the NFL Scouting Combine last month. His 4.50 40-yard dash was the fastest of all defensive linemen and second fastest of all linebackers. Amongst defensive linemen, Irvin was third in the broad jump (10-3), first in the three-cone drill (6.70 seconds) and first in the 20-yard shuttle (4.03 seconds).

Irvin has undeniable athleticism and is considered one of the most talented pass rushers in the draft. He's been extremely productive despite his lack of size.

Many teams feel his frame makes him a better fit in a 3-4 scheme. Yet Cover 2 systems have often relied on smaller edge rushers. The Indianapolis Colts have been sending Robert Mathis (6-2, 245) off the edge for years now. In this scheme, speed is key.

"You know the type of defensive ends we play with," Smith told the Chicago Tribune. "Weight is overrated. I remember I coached Leonard Little at St. Louis. He came out at 237. He played at about 250 at the most. It's more about the strength than the numbers. As long as a guy can run and he has strength."

The Bears are looking for a player that can come in on passing downs and take advantage of the one-on-one matchups that Peppers will provide. Irvin is already familiar with that role. He served as a situational pass rusher his senior year, yet still racked up 8.5 sacks.

He's considered a second-round pick right now. If it weren't for his off-field concerns, he would likely be a first-round prospect.

The Bears have shown they are not above rostering players with serious character concerns – see Marshall, Brandon. If Smith and coordinator Rod Marinelli feel Irvin can be productive in a limited role, they may look past his off-the-field issues.

If he can stay out of trouble and keep his head on straight – which is a huge if at this point – he could be a key piece to Chicago's puzzle going forward.

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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of Bear Report magazine and BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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