The Silver and Black are back as GM Reggie McKenzie has started the “new era of excellence.” Of course, his philosophy is to “build through the draft” and he has done that very well recently. The big turnaround started when he drafted OLB Khalil Mack and QB Derek Carr in the first round in 2014.
And in 2016, Year 3 for both of them, they paid huge dividends for the Oakland Raiders. Carr was a strong NFL MVP candidate until he broke his leg in Week 16 and Mack was the NFL DPOY. Other stars like Amari Cooper were also drafted by the Raiders so they are built through the draft.
But like legendary owner Al Davis in the past, McKenzie is not afraid to take on a reclamation project. That’s a talented, highly drafted player that didn’t work out very well with his first team. OLB Bruce Irvin is such a player as the Seattle Seahawks drafted him in the first round in 2012.
He came into the NFL as a 245-pound edge rusher with blazing 4.5 speed he showed at the combine. Irvin appeared to be on his way in the beginning with a solid year of eight sacks as a rookie. But he didn’t make the jump young players usually make from there so better numbers never came.
It got to the point where he was mainly a coverage linebacker that didn’t get many sacks or tackles. So in the 2016 offseason, Irvin opted for a change of scenery, signing with the Raiders. I won’t say he’s done it yet but Irvin looks like he’s on his way to reclaiming his career as a first-round pick.
He had a career high 57 tackles and tied for the league’s lead in forced fumbles with six in 2016. He only had seven sacks but five of them were in the last seven games so he was trending upward. Should he pick up where he left off and I believe he will, Irvin will have his first double-digit sack season.
Put that together with his play against the run and in coverage and that’s a star player. Marc Sessler of NFL.com has already predicted a Pro Bowl at the end of this coming season for Irvin. He’ll get no argument from Norton, who sang his praises to CNBCBAYAREA while not worried about sacks, saying:
“Everybody likes sacks, but Bruce is our spy, he’s our cover guy. He’s the guy on the other side of Khalil. He’s the guy who re-routes receivers well, he’s one of our fastest, best athletes. He’s a guy who shows up early and studies late. He’s one of our team leaders and you see the way he comes. He might not have a lot of sacks, but he has a lot of quarterback hits.”
The whole league will soon recognize this a first-round pick as reclaimed his career!
Just win, baby!