ALAMEDA — Bruce Irvin makes no secret about his desire to deliver his first 10-sack season.
“I definitely want to get that,” Irvin said. “I definitely … I’m gonna get it. I’m gonna get it.”
The Raiders outside linebacker, in his first season in Oakland after four years with the Seattle Seahawks, has made the elusive double-digit sack season a possibility with five in his past five games.
His seven sacks on the year leave him one away from his previous career high, set as a Seattle rookie in 2012. Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., Irvin’s linebackers coach for three years in Seattle, likes the fact that Irvin is motivated to reach that milestone.
“No question,” Norton said. “Bruce has been trying to get there for a long time. He’s really been trying to get to that point. But to his value, he does so much.
“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 the 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.”
Norton even said Irvin reminds him of one of his former teammates Charles Haley, a 2015 Hall of Fame inductee.
“He didn’t get a lot of sacks, but he always disrupted the quarterback, got him off the spot and is a guy who everyone knew where he was,” Norton said.
The Raiders talked after signing Irvin about “bringing him forward” — their lingo for saying they want him constantly rushing the passer. But as Norton noted, he’s also showed himself to be adept at playing the run, occasionally dropping into coverage and serving as a quarterback spy.
Irvin’s assessment is he’s playing the best football of his career and the numbers bear it out — he has a career high in tackles and his five forced fumbles are more than his first four seasons combined.
“As far as me being a complete player,” Irvin said, “playing the run, dropping in coverage, rushing the passer, just doing everything they’ve asked of me, I think I’ve really done a pretty good job in doing it. I’ve still got a long way to go, just got to keep getting better.”
Irvin credits his success to playing with a clear mind.
“Just worried about football, letting all the other stuff that don’t matter, getting it out of my life, Irvin said. “Just really committing myself to this team, to this organization and trying to put out there the best performance I can. I think I’m feeling it right now, but I’m also prepared during the week so it translates to Sunday. I’m just going to continue to do that and hopefully it continues translating.”
Irvin’s surge has coincided with the Raiders’ own defensive resurgence. After allowing 444.8 yards per game over the first six to rank last in the league, the Raiders have allowed am average of just 324.1 yards over the past eight.
“I just think we’re finally starting to jell,” Irvin said. “I think guys are starting to learn guys’ tendencies, when guys are going to take chances, and I think it’s really showing.”
— Raiders defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr. could be in line to make his season debut on Saturday against the Indianapolis Colts.
Edwards, a second-year player who has been out all season with a hip injury, practiced all week and seems in line to be activated in time for the Christmas Eve affair at the Coliseum. He packed a bag in the locker room with his game equipment — a strong indicator he’ll finally return to action.
Raiders coach Jack Del Rio remained noncommittal.
“We’ll work through that,” Del Rio said. “He had a good week of practice. Obviously we’ve got to make a move to get him active before we can activate him and play him. But I think he’s had a good week.”
General manager Reggie McKenzie, speaking Wednesday night on SiriusUX NFL Radio, said, “We’re excited the way Mario has practiced here in the last couple weeks, so we feel pretty good about that situation, about the nation seeing him this weekend.”
Edwards was designated as the Raiders’ player to return from injured reserve on Dec. 5, allowing him a 21-day window to practice for the team to evaluate and decide if he can return. That window expires Monday but, along with McKenzie’s comments, Del Rio also said a week ago that the team was targeting this Colts game for Edwards’ return.
While this is the Raiders’ final practice of the week, they still don’t have to issue their projected game participation report until Friday and Edwards does not have to appear on the injury report until he’s back on the active roster.
— Left guard Kelechi Osemele returned to practice Thursday in a limited capacity after missing Wednesday’s with an ankle injury.