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Can the Patriots (or anyone) stop Bruce Irvin?

10.12.12 at 1:22 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Bruce Irvin was a surprise pick at 15th overall in the 2012 draft, but he’s looked every bit like a home-run pick for the Seahawks thus far.

The former criminal-turned pass-rush specialist [for more on that, click here] has presented a major challenge to offenses, and it’s shown with his 4.5 sacks and one forced fumble through five games. His upside as a speedy defender capable of getting to the quarterback was enough for him to be the first defensive end off the board, ahead of the likes of Quinton Coples and Chandler Jones.

So has Jones, who was viewed as a better and more complete prospect entering the draft compared to the seemingly one-dimensional Irvin, been keeping tabs on the other rookie pass-rushers? Does he put much into Sunday’s game matching two of the better young pass-rushers in the game against one another?

“I compete with no one but myself,” Jones, who played in the Big East against Irvin, said Friday at Gillette Stadium.

Though Jones might not be worried about Irvin, the Patriots’ offense and its coach sure are. In trying to prepare for Irvin, Bill Belichick said the team has had a player (he wouldn’t say who or which position they played) mimic the speedy pass-rusher in practice so the offense can be better prepared when they see the real thing on Sunday.

“We’ve tried to do that,” Belichick said. “We look at our roster and try to match up our scout team players similar to the type of players we’ll be facing that week when possible. Receivers, tight ends, pass-rushers, defensive backs. Yeah, we would take our guys that are more like their guys and try to put them in those positions, or somebody that would give us an approximate look of that person’s style of play, definitely.

“We do that every week. We take guys and talk about it with the staff, who’s going to be who, who’s going to be [Chris] Clemons, who’s going to be Irvin, who’s going to be [Sidney] Rice, who’s going to be [Marshawn] Lynch, who’s going to [Robert] Turbin, who’s going to be Leon Washington, who’s going to be everybody.”

It’s common practice for teams to have players play the part of certain opponents in preparation for that player. Last week, second-year quarterback Ryan Mallett played the role of Peyton Manning by mimicking the Denver quarterback’s on-field mannerisms.

“Sometimes it’s just by the position that that person plays and the person that we have that plays that position more familiar with it, so it helps our guys to take the reps for that,” Belichick explained. “Sometimes it’s to replicate their player. But our younger players, our practice squad players, some of the guys that don’t play as much, we also want to try to put them in a position where they can execute plays at their position rather than move them somewhere else and playing them out of position. We try to put them where they play so their reps are higher quality reps in their personal development.”

Irvin isn’t the only rookie who’s made an impact for the Seahawks. Not only is their third-round pick starting at quarterback in Russell Wilson, but fourth-round pick Robert Turbin has proven to be a capable backup for Lynch.

“They’ve got a lot of good young players,” Belichick said. “It seems like most of their team is under three years other than just a handful of guys. They’ve gotten good production out of [their rookies]. Turbin’s been impressive when he’s played in there for Lynch. Wilson obviously, Irvin’s been a good pass-rusher for them. [Bobby] Wagner‘s been very productive for them at middle linebacker. He’s made a lot of plays. It looks like they’ve got a good solid group.

Added Belichick: “They’ve drafted well. Pete [Carroll]‘s put together a real good football team. I think he’s done a great job of turning that roster over. He’s got a lot of young players, but they’re good players. I’ve been real impressed with what he’s done, no question.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Bruce Irvin, chandler jones, Pete Carroll
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