CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Outside linebacker Bruce Irvin, signed as a free agent during the offseason to help the Carolina Panthers transition to a 3-4 front, will make his 2019 debut Sunday at Houston after missing the first three games with a hamstring injury.
He will join a unit that with eight sacks in Sunday’s 38-20 victory over Arizona is tied with Green Bay for second in the NFL in sacks with 12. Jacksonville and New England lead the way with 13.
“Bruce’s repertoire with the pass rush is very diverse,” coach Ron Rivera said. “He can work with the 3-technique, he can work with the nine, he can work inside, he can work out. He gives you some flexibility and his game will fit with the guys he’s out there with.”
Irvin, the first player ejected from a Super Bowl while playing with Seattle in 2013, also brings an intangible he hopes will help.
“Intensity, man,” Irvin said.
Irvin admitted it was “tough” having to miss the first three games after signing a one-year, $4 million deal to help with the defensive transition from a 4-3 scheme.
“I had to work my ass off to get back,” he said. “Now I’m here and ready to go.”
Irvin’s 43.5 career sacks rank third on the Carolina defense behind defensive end/tackle Gerald McCoy (54.5) and outside linebacker/end Mario Addison (49). Addison had three sacks against Arizona to give him a team-best 3.5 for the season.
“He brings a little something that is a little different,” Rivera said of Irvin, who also can play end in a 4-3. “He brings some veteran experience, he has some savvy to him, he’s got an understanding of how things need to be done or should be done. He’s going to help our young guys.”
Having Irvin against Watson, one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the NFL and this past week’s AFC Offensive Player of the Week after passing for 351 yards and three touchdowns, also will help.
“Bruce is an edgy player, and that’s never a bad thing for a defensive player,” defensive coordinator Eric Washington said. “He just brings that edge, that attitude. He’s emotional. He wears everything on his sleeve, He talks to the opponent. He talks to his teammates. You just know he’s there.
“Plus he backs it up. He’s going to talk it and walk it.”