Looking for Connor Barwin…and an impact upon 2013 Eagles’ LB play…

Connor Barwin is in his 5th year out of Cincinnati, an OLB at 6-4, 265, and was drafted in the 2nd round by the Houston Texans in 2009. He made his mark as a pass rusher with the Texans along with Brooks Reed at OLB a couple of years ago. Barwin got 11.5 sacks, Reed got 6…

Now here we are, new team, but similar defensive scheme for Barwin. At least that's the way it's being drawn up…

But I anticipate just enough change of methodology and coaching style in Philly to create some learning-curve angst for Barwin, so that it would be unrealistic to expect the big sack numbers he used to get for Houston.

The other thing is Barwin is likely to be rotated in and out of game situations. He will not be a consistent 3-down backer. Many factors (such as injury to other players) could prove me wrong on that, but I see Connor Barwin in a specialized role in pressure packages. Further revelation of the new Eagles' sub-packages as we move on through training camp will either confirm or disprove my theory.

With a new regime in Philadelphia, the Eagles will be switching over to a hybrid 3-4 defense under defensive coordinator Billy Davis for the first time since since the 1980’s.

An important addition to the Eagles’ switch was former Houston Texans linebacker Connor Barwin. His knowledge of the system will be key, as he is one of the few starters on this defense that has experience in the 3-4. Barwin played it in Houston under defensive guru Wade Phillips (as did current Eagles MLB DeMeco Ryans)….

Always on the lookout myself for young talent, I scouted one of the younger bloggers out there, Li'l Dave Maco, who posts for Khandyman Sports.com.  Maco is probably the youngest guest writer we've ever had here, but he has a nice take on Connor Barwin this week.

"Barwin’s main skill set is in coverage due to his speed. He is known to shut down the opposing tight end in coverage, while also effectively pressuring the quarterback consistently. Those are two of the key factors that you need to thrive in a 3-4 defense."

"Expect Barwin to step in and be an immediate leader on the defense. Players such as Trent Cole, Mychal Kendricks and Vinny Curry will be leaning a lot on his teaching to smoothly adjust to this defensive style. These three players are going to need to adapt to play stand-up OLB off the snap in a 3-4. This is after having their hand in the dirt in a 4-3 last season…"

"There is concern about Barwin’s production drop-off last year. His sack total dipped from 11.5 in 2011 to 3.0 in 2012. But according to what Howie Roseman says, that drop-off was due to how the Texans used him:

“He was more on the open side two years ago,” Roseman said of Barwin’s 11.5-sack campaign (via Philadelphia Inquirer). “He was more in position to set the edge and cover the tight end this past year. We watched him two years ago on the open side and then even this past year when they played the Lions when he was doing it more. … We think we know what we’re getting here in a high-motor guy.”

"So, with a fresh start and the Eagles apparently aware of how to use Barwin properly, it is likely that he will have a big impact on this defense as both a leader on the field and in the locker room, as well as on the stat sheet. He will be the team’s shutdown coverage linebacker and an explosive pass-rusher when needed."

Oh I hope it plays out like that, young Mr. Maco. But realistic chances are more likely that Barwin will add much-needed depth to a linebacking crew which sorely needs it. I don't see Connor Barwin as a savior— I see him more as an apostle. He's "depth" personified— and the Eagles need all the "deep depth"* they can get on defense.

[*"deep depth" is a term which was originally coined by the late Earl Weaver and which connotes having great quality in your backups and situational players on the roster.]

Here's a salute to young Dave Maco, who brought us this topic for discussion today:

Philadelphia sports fan since 1992, I always say I've seen it all, but my hometown teams never cease to amaze…. and not always in a good way. Favorite player on the Eagles is Jason Peters. I feel at his best, Peters is one of the best linemen in team history. Favorite Philadelphia sports moment : The Flyers erasing an 0-3 deficit against the Bruins in the 2010 playoffs.


Oh dear, suddenly I feel very out of date…


Thomas Jackson

About Thomas Jackson

Jax Sports Media has been reporting on NFL teams in the mid-Atlantic region since 2006. Thomas Jackson is its senior writer. Tom started covering the Philadelphia Eagles for the MVN Network in 2007. In 2009 he joined the Bloguin Network. He now also covers the Baltimore Ravens.