Breaking down Chicago Bears Isaiah Irving defensive debut

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 31: Roderick Johnson
CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 31: Roderick Johnson /

Isaiah Irving saw major defensive snaps for the first time in his NFL career. What can he bring and what can he build on?

The Chicago Bears run to the postseason officially ended on Sunday with their embarrassing loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Bears now have five games to play out the season, and if they were smart get players who may be in the plans for 2018 on the field to see what they need to work on this offseason. That plan came to fruition for an undrafted free agent in Isaiah Irving on Sunday.

With Leonard Floyd sidelined for the season, the major beneficiary was veteran Sam Acho. However, the team did mix in the rookie from San Jose State as well, and Irving wound up playing 36 snaps. For a player who only had five snaps on defense in his career before this game, this was a huge uptick in work for him. How did he play, and is there anything in Irving that warrants a longer look?

Pass Rush

Irving is not a power house of a man or a freak athlete either. However, he is a player who is technically sound, and in that, there is some potential to build on.

Below, you see one of his better pass rushing attempts. Keep in mind he is up against perennial All-Pro performer Lane Johnson. However, despite Johnson owning him in size and strength, Irving still gets under him and drives him back towards the quarterback.

The key to eye in on are his hands. Notice how quickly he gets them up into the shoulders of Johnson. He uses his low size to leverage his strength and getting his hands and arms in proper technique and out faster than Johnson was what was able to get him into Johnson’s shoulders clean, and give him the power edge in this matchup. While it did not end in a sack, it showed promise.

Below, we again see his perfect hand placement. Right into the chest of Johnson and quick. This helps keep him away from the grasp of Johnson, as uses his speed to get outside around the right tackle, and help keep the backside close as Carson Wentz scrambles out of the pocket.

Below could easily be considered a pass rushing loss for Irving. However, we have to note again his hand placement. Quick and inside the shoulders as he pushes the guard Brandon Brooks back. Brooks wins with overall strength in this out, but we still see a good counter by Irving with the swim move to keep him in the play for an extra second.

More from Bear Goggles On

It is clear that if Irving is able to put on more muscle that he can eventually win in these situations. The technique and the counter are sound, but physically, he is not ready to go head to head with an upper echelon interior offensive lineman. That should be no surprise.

Run Defense

The pass rush was more impressive than the run defense at this juncture. While the technique and jump off of the ball looked natural coming in off of the edge, he looked lost  at times defending the run. The play below is a perfect example. Irving does not feel the presence of the outside tight end to his right. The small cheap completely throws him off balance, and makes for an easy toss by the interior tight end. Irving then gets trampled in the stampede and is wiped out of the play.


Lastly, we see that Irving is not too bad out in space either. Irving stays discipline during the play fake and maintains his back end integrity. He shows fluid movement as he shuffles to the sideline while watching the quarterback. He protects the edge, and winds up making the tackle on the tight end that he helped keep inside. This was a strong play from the undrafted free agent.

Grading how well Irving played would depend on what you expected from him coming into the game. For an undrafted free agent, and his first shot in the NFL being against the best team in the league, his performance was from poor.

There is absolutely a lot of room to grow, and that will likely take place this offseason. However, he did not look lost for the majority of the game, and showed mentally he can play in this league. It is likely that he is just a special teams and end of the roster player. However, getting this look at him to see what they can grow, and knowing that they can trust him in that role moving forward is progress.