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Jon Gruden sees Bruce Irvin best used as an edge rusher with Raiders

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Now would seemingly be the time to take Bruce Irvin off the list of the Oakland Raiders' potential cap casualties.

At least, for now. Or did you not hear incoming Raiders coach Jon Gruden rave about him at the NFL combine on Wednesday?

“I like Bruce Irvin,” Gruden said. “I know Bruce Irvin. I like him because he plays. If you look at playtime, the amount of percentage of snaps, he’s out there all the time. He played through a back problem early in the season.”

True, Irvin did play in all 16 games for the second season in a row for the Raiders. And the outside linebacker did equal a career high with eight sacks.

But consistency has been a question since he signed a four-year, $37 million deal with the Raiders as a free agent in 2016 after spending the first four years of his NFL career with the Seattle Seahawks.

And with a relatively large salary-cap number of $8.25 million for 2018, Irvin was thought to be on thin ice. Even Irvin wondered aloud on social media two weeks ago if he was long for Oakland.

“Y'all keep saying bring baby Reggie out but s--- baby Reggie may not b back,” tweeted Irvin, who has taken to calling himself ‘Baby Reggie’ as a nod to Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie and Irvin’s penchant for recruiting free agents to Oakland.

But even McKenzie took umbrage with the notion that the likes of Irvin, running back Marshawn Lynch and receiver Michael Crabtree could be cut.

“You want Marshawn to go away,” McKenzie jokingly told a group of Raiders beat writers in Indianapolis, per the East Bay Times. “Y’all are getting rid of Crabtree, getting rid of Bruce. You’re running everybody out of town. We’ll just have Derek Carr and a few linemen. Y’all getting rid of everybody. We want to keep our good players, put a winning product on the field.”

According to Gruden, putting Irvin in better positions to succeed might be the biggest key for him.

Irvin needs help, Gruden said, even as Irvin was brought to Oakland to help defensive end Khalil Mack, who regularly faces double- and triple-teams, which would theoretically free up the 6-foot-3, 250-pound Irvin to do more damage.

Alas…

“I really think [Irvin is] playing a difficult position because he’s really an edge player,” Gruden said. “And when you ask him to play over the tight end or over the offensive tackle at his size, you can get beat up. But he’s still a very good pass-rusher. I think he plays with good effort. We just need to get him some help so he can do the things he does the best more often.

“He’ll play corner if I ask him to. He played free safety in junior college. He’s a versatile, skilled athlete. But he’s at his best screaming off the edge and as a threat off the edge. You can use him as one of the spinners; you can walk him around over the guard. He’s capable of covering. He’s got edge qualities. I think that’s the strength of his game and hopefully we can find some assets to help him do that.”