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Sturm: The Incredibly Perplexing Case Of David Irving

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  • Sturm: The Incredibly Perplexing Case Of David Irving

    The Incredibly Perplexing Case Of David Irving







    By Bob Sturm 5 hours ago





    If there is one thing you look for on the football field, it is 'special.' Special traits that often provide special talents. Those special talents bring special plays. In a league where special is nearly impossible to find at bargain prices, you certainly cannot believe your luck when it falls into your lap.


    Which is why the case of David Irving is so bewildering.


    David Irving was acquired for nearly nothing when the Cowboys signed him off the Kansas City Chiefs practice squad on September 29, 2015. He was an undrafted free agent for the Chiefs out of Iowa State and did not make the Chiefs' final roster, as the scheme fit was never quite right in a 3-4 defense. With Dallas and the 4-3, Irving seemed to be a possibility at DE and DT where his lanky frame and unreal quickness inside would make him a terror at making plays behind the line of scrimmage.


    And he delivered on that potential nearly immediately. In 2015, he played roughly 20 snaps in each of his 10 games, but there were already signs that he could do some very unique things with his quickness off the snap and his penetration before a run play can develop at all.

    Above, Irving (95) provided uncommon quickness to make plays in the backfield immediately when he was put inside at the 3-technique, like this one in 2015 vs the Eagles.

    On passing downs, even as a rookie, when isolated against a guard, he showed uncommon pass rush skills.



    During the next training camp – his first in Dallas (in 2016) – the rare talents continued to show themselves and I wrote a long piece for the Dallas Morning News that suggested 2016 could be huge for the young man:
    Overall, I think he has a real chance to be something. Of course, he is also an undrafted free agent who is just trying to prove he belongs in the NFL. In other words, the Cowboys are badly exposed at this position because of the suspensions and now must roll the dice on a kid who is largely anonymous across the league, and even to many Cowboys fans.



    But I liked his 2015 and I like his training camp. Now, the talented youngster has to prove he can handle things in preseason. If he can, he starts opening night. From there, this guy can make a ton of money playing pro football if he keeps doing what he is doing.



    Sometimes, all a kid needs is a chance. And he is definitely about to get one.
    He got his chance in 2016. With Greg Hardy completely out of the picture, Randy Gregory and Demarcus Lawrence gone with league suspensions, and the defensive line offering little else, the table was set for Irving to play on a team so thin that Jack Crawford was starting for them early in the season.


    He would play in 15 games for 485 snaps (32.3 per game) and absolutely broke out as one of the top players on the entire defense. He took over Green Bay game in Week 6 where the Cowboys trounced the Packers. Irving was nearly unblockable and wound up with a sack and three forced fumbles.

    Irving contains Rodgers and gets the ball loose on a pivotal play with the game still in doubt.


    The same was true in December when he put together two weeks where he was credited with 3 sacks and 8 more QB hurries in home wins against Tampa Bay and Detroit. For the season, he led the 2016 Dallas Cowboys in “splash plays”, a metric I created that totals all defensive plays that result in either sacks, tackles for loss, passes batted down, holding penalties, runs or passes that are stuffed for no gain, and or fumbles. Basically, any time the defense wins a play due to something they did. And in 2016, David Irving accounted for more of those “splash plays” (27.5) than anyone else on the Cowboys defense (Sean Lee was next with 26 and Byron Jones followed with 17.5). It cost the Cowboys $525k in total compensation.


    The Cowboys, of course, had a remarkable 2016 that ended with the #1 seed – and would play at home against Green Bay again. On the defining play of the game, it was Irving who seemed to be held back (no penalty called) when Rodgers made the moment his.

    Irving, lined up over the center, won at the snap and then was taken to the ground as Rodgers escaped to make the throw to Jared Cook that set up the winning field goal.



    2016 was a massive success. Unfortunately, 2017 started with what seems to be the almost-obligatory 4-game suspension for a defensive linemen in Dallas. Cynics may suggest this PED flag explains his performances. Those in Irving's corner maintain he was the victim of a supplement that he bought over-the-counter and was unaware of a “secret ingredient”. Regardless, the season would start without him.




    Irving served his suspension and returned against Green Bay (as fate would have it) – and was a terror yet again. 2 sacks in his comeback game against the Packers, a sack in San Francisco, 2 sacks at Washington, and a sack against his original employer, the Chiefs. The Cowboys were now employing him almost exclusively as a defensive tackle and a pass rushing beast. He was impossible to contain on the inside and was now drawing so much attention that others were getting opportunities around him through his dominance.

    The Cowboys often used him in stunts with Demarcus Lawrence, like this play in Washington, and Irving would still end up getting the sack when he cleans up the mess.


    Despite 7 sacks in 8 games in 2017, he still doesn't appear to have many pass rush moves. His motor and his combination of quickness and size are his entire arsenal. But extending his arms allows him to wait out patient quarterbacks, and in some cases deflect their throws. Several interceptions (and near-interceptions) in 2017 were the result of Irving getting a piece of a pass. Guards and tackles have no chance by themselves. He is a freak of nature.

    Here, lining up wide, he gets a free run at Kirk Cousins and the collision was decisive.



    Unfortunately, this was also his final game of the season. Shortly after this sack of Cousins, he collided with a teammate and suffered a concussion. This concussion caused him to miss the final four games of the year and that is where our story appears to take a turn.


    You see, for the entirety of this write-up, I have offered you a glowing review of a young and talented player who seems to be able to do anything on the football field at a position the Cowboys have long coveted. He seems, at just age 24, a player who is a legitimate “war daddy” and alongside Demarcus Lawrence gives the Cowboys two extraordinary pieces on a defensive line hat has been ordinary for years since the prime of DeMarcus Ware.


    So, why are the Cowboys internally debating his future to a point where it is highly possible he has already played his last game in their uniform?


    Great question.


    It appears he has been a headache quite often during his tenure with Dallas. There has been frustration at times from making sure he was handling his body correctly to even making sure he was serious about his concussion recovery in December. In fact, you could argue that he was a headache at Iowa State, which caused him to go undrafted in the first place.


    He is certainly a player that will occasionally try an organization's patience or make NFL lifers roll their eyes when he wears too much jewelry to practice – and bad things happen.




    But, frankly, I have seen the Cowboys deal with much bigger headaches for decades. The idea they are drawing a line in the sand on Irving is quite perplexing.


    He is a restricted free agent this year and will be unrestricted in 12 months. Sources have indicated to me that the team will likely place the 2nd-round tender on him, which means he would make around $3 million – and will be able to shop for an offer sheet from the rest of the league. If another team makes an offer on him, then he may leave (or the Cowboys could match – which they likely would not) and Dallas would receive a 2nd round pick as compensation.


    A 1st-round tender is going to likely be under $4m, but the difference is this: It is highly unlikely another team would trade a 1st-round pick for Irving. They very well might offer a 2nd-round pick. The Cowboys know this. They know that the extra $1m would chase off suitors due to the value of the pick attached, so if you wanted to keep him you would place the 1st-round tender. But if you know you have no intention in a long-term deal next spring, you give Irving the low tender and go fishing for offers.


    I would never suggest I know what Irving is truly like behind closed doors. The Cowboys work with him every day and they know which levels of personality they find acceptable in their efforts to assemble the “right kind of guys” that Jason Garrett is so insistent about in interviews. Yet, they lead the league in suspensions (by a mile) over the last several seasons and seem to pick and choose their battles based on selective reasoning that frustrates their fan base.


    I will say this, though. I do know what kind of player he is on the field. He is the type of player you think can only be had in the 1st round. In fact, in 2018's draft, he might go #1 overall compared to the rest of the group. He makes the types of plays you search for when drafting and then accept that they can only be found up top. He makes plays that compare him favorably with the best interior linemen in the sport.


    Pro Football Focus rated him as the 2nd best “pass rush productivity” DT in the entire league in 2017 behind Geno Atkins ($10.5m per year), and ahead of Fletcher Cox ($17m per) and Kawaan Short ($16m). I am not here to say he is the complete player that they are and I am certainly not here to say he is the same type of guy in the locker-room. But, to talk yourself into walking away from that seems crazy. I got a little fired up the other day on Twitter about this, so forgive me for quoting myself:




    Now, we must leave open the possibility that the whispers and even the public quotes from Stephen Jones are about posturing and negotiating with the Irving camp. Maybe the Cowboys are attempting to lock him up to an under-market deal by letting the world know he is flawed.


    But, the noise is too much to ignore. I believe this team realizes they have to do a bigger deal with Lawrence, but that they trust him to make all the right decisions when he is handed all the money. They also can't stop talking about Maliek Collins in their future plans. He might be solid, but the tape says Irving is the better player by a decent margin.


    With Irving, even 12 months early, they don't have that trust. They want someone else to take the chance on handing him the money and hoping for the best. The tape, the stats from 2015-2017, and the rest of the roster agree: that is a really poor idea heading into 2018.
    2016 DCC LOTY Fantasy Football Champion

  • #2
    Where is all this money going to come from?

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by vince View Post
      Where is all this money going to come from?
      Some of it could come from dropping Dez, post June 1.
      2016 DCC LOTY Fantasy Football Champion

      Comment


      • #4
        I don't even care anymore.

        Trade him, sign him. Who gives a fuck?

        No championship in 20+ years.

        Won't matter anyway.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by vince View Post
          Where is all this money going to come from?
          Dez, Witten, Scandrick, Crawford, and maybe Lee will all be gone by 2020 I'd imagine, those are five of the biggest contracts on the team right now.

          Figure out a way to fit him in now and there should be plenty of space by Year 2-4 of the contract.

          Comment


          • #6
            you could make the case that Lawrence is just as unreliable due to injuries and suspensions, yet he's the one who's gonna cash in

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by bbgun View Post
              you could make the case that Lawrence is just as unreliable due to injuries and suspensions, yet he's the one who's gonna cash in
              Last year's sack numbers were through the roof though.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by vince View Post
                Last year's sack numbers were through the roof though.
                Irving's would have been, too, had he not gotten hurt.
                2016 DCC LOTY Fantasy Football Champion

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by vince View Post
                  Last year's sack numbers were through the roof though.
                  Mo Wilkerson had a contract year, got paid, and immediately stopped trying. That's my biggest fear. We're paying Lawrence for one elite year, not four years of "good to excellent."

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by bbgun View Post
                    Mo Wilkerson had a contract year, got paid, and immediately stopped trying. That's my biggest fear. We're paying Lawrence for one elite year, not four years of "good to excellent."
                    He was very good in 2015, he just couldn't stay on the field for different reasons as a rookie and in 2016.

                    As long as he stays healthy and doesn't do some dumb shit to get suspended I wouldn't worry.

                    There's plenty of guys who got paid and packed it in and there's plenty of guys like Everson Griffen who didn't do much early on, improved around Year 3/4 and went on to be Pro Bowl players.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Lawrence and Irving are an elite pass rushing combo. It would be beyond silly to let one of them go.

                      We finally found an elite DT and DE that we have all been starving for since Ware left. There is no way in hell I'm letting either of those guys walk. I'm building my defensive line around them. They are 24 and 25 years old for shits sake.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Cowboysrock55 View Post
                        Lawrence and Irving are an elite pass rushing combo. It would be beyond silly to let one of them go.

                        We finally found an elite DT and DE that we have all been starving for since Ware left. There is no way in hell I'm letting either of those guys walk. I'm building my defensive line around them. They are 24 and 25 years old for shits sake.
                        Yep, you have to make it happen no matter what. Up to and including the possibility of releasing Dez and Witten.
                        2016 DCC LOTY Fantasy Football Champion

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Iamtdg View Post
                          Yep, you have to make it happen no matter what. Up to and including the possibility of releasing Dez and Witten.
                          Yeah, it would be really sad if we let go of talented 24 and 25 year olds to hold on to guys who are basically nearing the end of their career. But no we have the money. Get guys like Witten and Dez off the books. We have other places we can add some money. I know I read that Frederick's contract is basically set up to create a pretty large chunk if we want it.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Cowboysrock55 View Post
                            Yeah, it would be really sad if we let go of talented 24 and 25 year olds to hold on to guys who are basically nearing the end of their career. But no we have the money. Get guys like Witten and Dez off the books. We have other places we can add some money. I know I read that Frederick's contract is basically set up to create a pretty large chunk if we want it.
                            Not just players nearing the end of their careers, but players that are liabilities to the team. You could argue that me using that statement on Witten is a bit of hyperbole, but Dez showed without a doubt he was detrimental to this offense last year.
                            2016 DCC LOTY Fantasy Football Champion

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Iamtdg View Post
                              Not just players nearing the end of their careers, but players that are liabilities to the team. You could argue that me using that statement on Witten is a bit of hyperbole, but Dez showed without a doubt he was detrimental to this offense last year.
                              I still can't believe that we use Witten on nearly 100% of our offensive snaps. It's insane to me. I don't think that's Witten's fault but it holds this offense back tremendously. I think Witten could be useful as a #2 TE but the way we are using him is definitely holding the offense back.

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