By CURTIS CRABTREE
RENTON, Wash. (AP) – The Seattle Seahawks made the decision this offseason to move 2012 first-round pick Bruce Irvin from defensive end to linebacker after a productive rookie season as a situational pass rusher.
Irvin believes the move has saved his career.
In his fourth game as a strongside linebacker for the Seahawks, Irvin racked up nine tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and an interception against the St. Louis Rams on Monday night.
"I tell (linebackers coach) Ken Norton (Jr.) everyday `you saved my life. You saved my career making me a linebacker.' I thank him every day and I just got to keep working hard to make him feel like he made the right decision," Irvin said.
Irvin has appeared in just four games for Seattle after serving a suspension to begin the season but he's already producing at his new position. Irvin has racked up 19 tackles with two sacks and the first interception of his career.
"Bruce had a fantastic game for us. he was all over the place, he had eight (solo) tackles, and he had a sack and a forced fumble and a pick," head coach Pete Carroll said. "He just looked really comfortable playing the position and all of the different things that we're doing with him. If there was a thought that this was an experiment at one time, it's totally working out and we're really excited about what he's doing."
Irvin was selected by the Seahawks with the 15th pick of the 2012 draft. Last season, Irvin primarily only saw the field on third downs and clear passing situations where he could focus solely on rushing the quarterback. Irvin was productive in that role as he picked up eight sacks to lead all rookies.
However, Irvin was forced into a bigger role in the playoffs after starter Chris Clemons tore his ACL against the Washington Redskins in January. At 6-foot-3 and 248 pounds, the undersized Irvin was called upon to be an every down player and struggled to hold up. The Atlanta Falcons rushed for 167 yards against Seattle's usually strong rush defense.
Seattle thought a move to linebacker could allow Irvin to play more often and make better use of his tremendous athleticism.
"He has to have the ability to do it. Not everybody can make the switch," Norton said. "It's still early. There is still so much to do, so much to learn and just see how far we can take this."
Irvin was initially a safety when he enrolled at Mount San Antonio Junior College before being moved to the defensive line. His experience playing in coverage helped the team believe he could make the switch to linebacker. Against the Rams, Irvin picked up his first career interception by covering tight end Jared Cook nearly 20 yards down field.
Irvin believes it's an indication of what he can accomplish at the position.
"I think it shows that I'm capable of doing more than just coming in on third downs or passing situations and rushing the passer," Irvin said. "I can drop (into coverage). I've got a chance to show I can make open field tackles. Man-to-man containing the running backs, rushing the tight ends and the running backs. It's more of a complete position than being a specialist as I was last year."
Notes: RB Marshawn Lynch is probable and expected to play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after returning to practice Friday. He missed the first two days of practice this week with an injured knee. ... S Earl Thomas is also expected to play after missing Friday's practice with an illness. ... Seattle believes LT Russell Okung (toe) and RT Breno Giacomini (knee) have a chance to return to practice on Wednesday. Okung has been out since Week 2 and Giacomini since Week 3. Okung can practice the next two weeks before becoming eligible to return from the short-term injured reserve list.
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