By Brady Henderson
Remember when Bruce Irvin was a non-factor in the season opener and concern was beginning to set in about the lack of production from the Seahawks' first-round pick?
Irvin, the 15th overall pick, has 4.5 sacks after picking up two in Seattle's 16-12 win over Carolina on Sunday. That has him on pace for more than 14, which would equal the stellar season turned in by Aldon Smith in 2011 when the 49ers' top pick was nearly the league's defensive rookie of the year.
Coach Pete Carroll estimated that Irvin played less than 25 of 52 plays against Carolina. That didn't stop him from getting to Cam Newton twice. His second sack came on Carolina's final possession, when Irvin forced a fumble that teammate Alan Branch recovered to seal the win for Seattle. He dropped Newton for a 13-yard loss on third down earlier in the game. It was his second two-sack game in three weeks.
Irvin isn't an every-down player. Neither was Smith a year ago, though, so matching his 14-sack season seems like a realistic possibility.
That was much harder to imagine three weeks into the preseason, when Irvin still hadn't made a tackle let alone collected a sack. He had 1.5 sacks and forced a fumble in the preseason finale but didn't show up on the stat sheet in the regular-season opener a week later. Even when the on-field results weren't there, coaches and teammates routinely praised Irvin for his work ethic, specifically his willingness to listen and learn.
Defensive end Red Bryant did the same when he joined "Bob and Groz" on Monday.
"The sky's going to be the limit for a young guy like Bruce Irvin," said Bryant, the captain on Seattle's defense. "He's just starting to scratch the surface of what he can be if he continues to progress and continues to work the way that he's working."
In the video below, Bob Stelton and Dave Grosby share additional thoughts on Irvin's strong start.
You can listen to Monday's podcast here.