Two weeks ago, the Detroit Lions signed veteran Bruce Irvin to their practice squad, hoping to provide the team some additional juice to their inconsistent pass rush. Irvin hasn’t played yet, as the Lions wanted to get the 36-year-old player in football shape prior to throwing him out there.
On Friday, Lions coach Dan Campbell hinted this week’s game against the New Orleans Saints could be Irvin’s debut.
“Every week we feel like he’s getting his speed up, getting his football legs under him and I think there’s a chance,” Campbell said. “I think there’s a chance. (General manager) Brad (Holmes) and I will make that final decision today, but we’ve been working him in a little bit, so if we need him he’ll be prepared. But we’ll know a lot more after today.”
Irvin, an 11-year veteran, has tallied 55.5 sacks in his career. His most recent playing time came last year with the Seattle Seahawks, where he played in 11 games and started 10. Though he only tallied 3.5 sacks and five tackles for loss, he did produce a total of 24 pressures—and at least two in seven different games.
How has Irvin been able to continually produce at his age in the NFL?
“You do things right, you understand how to practice, you understand how to prepare,” Campbell said. “Obviously, he takes great care of his body. You’re 36 years old and still moves like he moves. And he’s a craftsman. He does have a quick first step, but he’s really good with his hands. His hands and his hips, he can bend. And so, that’s been developed over time and that’s a little bit like riding a bike when you’re somebody like him.”
Linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard knows intimately of Irvin’s game. The two played high school ball together. He knows that Irvin isn’t just more talent in the room, but brings the pedigree of a hard-working player who has had the ultimate success in this league.
“I knew the moment Brad and Dan had a conversation with him that they were going to fall in love, because he’s everything that this organization is about,” Sheppard said. “But on top of that, he’s won in this league. And that’s something coming to that edge rusher room. That room, you look at the makeup of that room and you say, ‘Who’s really won?’ And I’m talking real winning as far as — obviously, he’s won a Super Bowl in Seattle. But consistently being on over-.500 ball clubs and outfits like that, and knowing what that looks like.”
This season, the Lions have produced just 23 sacks (t-26th), though their pressure rate (24.8) ranks sixth in the NFL. We’ll likely see this week if Irvin can help turn that pressure into production against the Saints.