The Falcons are hoping that the addition of defensive end Bruce Irvin will improve the team’s pass rush over the second half of the season.
Irvin will allow the Falcons to use a “NASCAR” (speed rush) package in passing situations.
“We will work him, Takk (McKinley) and Vic (Beasley) and that group a good bit together (Thursday) and (Friday) with the game plan,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said on Wednesday. “We’ve got a lot of work to do to get him up to speed. He’s up to the challenge for sure.”
Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett would the fourth player in the group.
Back in 2007, the New York Giants popularized the term of “NASCAR package” by putting in all defensive ends in pass rushing situation. The speed of Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, all defensive ends, was too much for offensive lines to handle.
In 2011, the Giants used a speed rush -- NASCAR package -- of Tuck, Umenyiora, Mathias Kiwanuka and Jason Pierre-Paul to help beat Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.
It was no surprise that the Falcons wanted to add Irvin, who is from Atlanta and attended high school at both Stockbridge and Stephenson.
The Falcons have 17 sacks, which ranks 27th in the NFL. They have an upcoming three-game stretch where they will have to put heat on New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees (Nov. 22), Baltimore’s Joe Flacco (Dec. 2) and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers (Dec. 9) to have a chance to make a playoff run.
Releasing Irvin was a business decision by the Raiders, who have also unloaded Khalil Mack and wide receiver Amari Cooper.
Irvin, 31, has three sacks, four quarterback hits and one forced fumble on the season.
McKinley leads the Falcons with 5.5 sacks and Beasley has one sack this season, just three in the past 18 games.
“I’m excited about Bruce,” Beasley said. “I played against him in college. I know he’s a good speed rusher and he’s going to enhance our pass-rush ability.”
Beasley likes the prospects of the “NASCAR” package.
“That is going to be cool,” he said. “I’m excited about that. Three speed guys on the field at the same time. Who do you slide to? It’s going to be tough to handle for opposing offenses.
Beasley played at Clemson and Irvin suited up for West Virginia.
“I looked at him how I looked at myself,” Beasley said. “A guy with great speed off the edge. His ability was phenomenal. It’s going to be exciting just to play alongside of him and just continue to get pressure on the quarterback.”
McKinley had issues with equipment and was not available during the open locker-room session. Otherwise, the news of adding Irvin was well received by Falcons players.
“He’s a hard-nosed player,” Jarrett said. “A guy who plays with great effort. He’s definitely a factor every time that he’s on the field.”
Irvin was drafted by Seattle in 2012 and spent two seasons with Quinn and Falcons defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel. He already knows the defense.
“It’s a good addition to our team,” Jarrett said. “He’s going to bring some attitude and some swagger to our defense.”
Linebacker Deion Jones, who returned to practice on Wednesday, approved of the deal too.
“I think it’s going to be a good addition to our team,” Jones said. “He’s a good player. Him having to be on the (defensive) front, he’ll fit right in.”
The Raiders announced their plans on Saturday. Irvin was phased out of the defense in the regime of new head coach Jon Gruden.
After playing four seasons with Seattle, Irvin signed a four-year, $27.7 million contract with Oakland in free agency.
Irvin has played in 98 games and made 75 starts in the NFL. He’s made 40 sacks and has three interceptions.
If all goes well, Irvin will play against the Browns Sunday.
He’ll add to the momentum the unit is building after holding Washington’s Adrian Peterson to 17 yards rushing and New York’s Saquon Barkley to 43 yards rushing over the past two games.
Over the Falcons’ 4-4 start, Beasley has played 401 of the defensive snaps (72.8 percent), but has just one sack.
Over his past 18 games, including the playoffs, Beasley has only three sacks. In April, the Falcons picked up his $14.2 million fifth-year option.
Beasley had 15.5 sacks to lead the league in 2016. He had five last season.
Beasley has been close on some sacks, but the Falcons hope those close calls turn into production over the second half of the season.
The Falcons were hopeful that Beasley and McKinley would turn into a formidable pass rushing tandem.
Now, they will add Irvin to the mix.
Meanwhile, cornerback Robert Alford, who didn’t play against the Redskins, returned to practice.
The Falcons have missed four starters in six of their eight games this season.
Strong safety Keanu Neal and free safety Ricardo Allen are out for the season. Jones could return against Dallas in two weeks.