Earlier this week it was reported that Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman David Irving was to serve a four game suspension for violating the league's PED rules.
Meaning, Irving is set to miss the Cowboys first four games of 2017, including the pivotal season opener against the division rival New York Giants. Still, a four game suspension isn't the end of the world, especially considering the circumstances surrounding this particular offense.
Whether the suspension holds or not after Irving's appeal, he will still be available for most of the 2017 season. A season in which a large portion of Cowboys Nation expects he will “break out.”
Even SB Nation's Stephen White labeled David Irving the Cowboys' candidate to have that break out season earlier in the offseason, likening in him to rookie defensive lineman Malik McDowell.
The point of this elongated introduction is tell you, I expect big things out of David Irving this season, once he is available to play. At 6'7″ and about 270 pounds, Irving is a physical freak along the defensive line.
Though many have called his play in 2016 inconsistent, I would argue he simply did not see enough snaps during most of the season. Over the final three games, Irving's most productive stretch of the year, he played in 82.2% of the Cowboys' defensive snaps (courtesy of All 22). Un-ironically, he recorded three sacks and was all over the field during that time.
Besides his incredible length, Irving's most redeeming quality is arguably his power/strength. His best performance of the season came against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in which he all-of-a-sudden looked like the reincarnation of the late great Reggie White.
Despite not having too great of a get-off here, he and Maliek Collins work their offensive counterparts straight into the backfield. While Collins hits the guard with a quick head fake and spin move, Irving simply runs right over the offensive tackle.
Considering his incredibly lengthy arms and overall upper body strength, the tackle stands no chance once Irving gets hand-on first. The tackle also tries to jump-set Irving a bit, as his normal kick-sets had been getting him bull rushed into oblivion the last few possessions. Irving tosses him like a rag-doll, however, and gets to the quarterback.
Irving absolutely abused the Bucs' offensive line all game long. Here, with the Cowboys defense backed up in the red zone, Irving comes through with a spectacular play.
Lined up as the strong-side 3-technique, Irving cocks his body pre-snap straight into b-gap. He could almost be considered a 4I based off his somewhat wide-alignment alone. The Bucs try to run a backside zone play, in which their left guard is responsible for linebacker Justin Durant.
When zone blocking, you never turn backwards. You step playside, and move upwards/laterally to secure your track. Given that Irving is in a 3-technique, he is responsibility of the left tackle, and the guard does not give any help.
This turns out to be a big mistake.
David Irving comes off the ball with excellent burst and aggression, and beats the tackle right from the snap. He also does a great job of breaking the tackle's hands off of his body, giving him no chance through his alignment and power.
Even when David Irving is blocked, he can still impact plays. Against the Packers here, another one of Irving's “flashy” games, he rushes the right guard from a 3-technique. Though he gets stoned and blocked rather soundly, Irving's height and length allow him to stick his hands into the air and affect the passing lanes.
Though the deflection only results in an incompletion this time, there is always the chance that one of these tipped balls will result in an interception and a game-changing play.
Of course, you can't expect Irving to simply dominate offensive tackles like that on every snap, or even on the majority of snaps. But, the fact of the matter is, his flashes of greatness have been too inconsistent.
His suspension really isn't a big deal, especially considering he will play 12 of their 16 regular season games.
But, it isn't no problem either. Irving is a raw chess piece in many of the technical areas of his game. He has the body type, the strength, and can straight up play football. But he needs to work with defensive coaches Rod Marinelli and Leon Lett to mold his raw abilities and become a fine-tuned quarterback killing machine.
David Irving is going to have a very good season in 2017. And when the Cowboys go with their classic 3-2-6 look, an Irving/Collins/Taco threesome on the defensive line looks pretty good if you ask me.