PHILADELPHIA – Life would be simpler for Connor Barwin if he could just line up at outside linebacker, as he did in Houston, and rush the quarterback on almost every passing down.
Fortunately for the Eagles, and their defensive coordinator Bill Davis, Barwin isn’t all that interested in simple. He’s a student of the game, and he’s enjoying the challenges created by Davis’ weekly defensive schemes.
“Connor makes the scheme go,” Davis said. “I move him around multiple spots. He's on the outside on the right, outside on the left, he's inside, he's over a guard. We move him around.”
Barwin is listed as the left outside linebacker. That’s misleading.
“The position is called the Jack,” Davis said. “The jack of all trades, is what it was originally named. We move him around and we have different techniques we use with him and he's great with picking them up; if I need an edge set on one side or a certain reroute or chip, Connor is the guy we go to.”
Against Arizona Sunday, Barwin lined up at cornerback on a handful of plays. He covered Larry Fitzgerald. He covered backs and tight ends. He played the run. He rushed the passer, but not nearly as much as he expected when he signed with the Eagles as a free agent.
“I didn’t know what the defense was going to be like,” Barwin said. “I figured it would be like the 3-4 I played in before, but it’s a lot different. Essentially, I was like a D-end in Houston. You set the edge and you rush the quarterback. But here, some games, that’s what we’re doing. Some games, I’m lining up at corner. There’s a lot of moving around.”
“It's unselfish on his part,” Davis said. “He would love to be rushing every down and getting more sacks, but he's dropping and doing more other things and never says a word about it.”
Barwin’s versatility has worked against him in that regard. Trent Cole, the right outside linebacker, has made the move from defensive end. He drops into coverage occasionally. But Davis recognizes that Cole is best utilized right now as a pass-rusher, so that’s how he uses him. If Cole was as comfortable doing the other tasks, it would free Barwin to rush the quarterback more.
“When you see me lining up at corner, I think people know I’m not rushing very much,” Barwin said. “You just do your job, man. I don’t rush as much as some other guys, but that’s all right. When I do, I have to take advantage of the opportunities. As long as we keep winning, and we keep playing well on defense, I’ll be happy.”