Eagles Wake-Up Call: Barwin And the Defensive End Rotation
There were two key differences between 2014 and 2015 from a pass-rushing perspective, says Connor Barwin.
In ’14, the Eagles played with the lead more — particularly over the first 12 games when they shot out to a 9-3 mark and Barwin racked up 12.5 of his career-high 14.5 sacks. Last season, there were fewer opportunities to just pin the ears back.
The other was depth. The Eagles enjoyed a nice rotation at outside linebacker two seasons ago with Brandon Graham successfully rotating in with Barwin and Trent Cole. This past year, not so much. Where Graham played 499 snaps (43 percent) in the next-man-in role in ’14, Marcus Smith was in for 127 (10.5 percent) largely unproductive snaps, per Football Outsiders.
“If anything, the last year, we just didn’t have a great guy to rotate with me and Brandon Graham,” Barwin told Alex Marvez and Bill Polian during an appearance on SiriusXM Radio. “And that was a problem. Hopefully this year, moving to a 4-3, we’ll have that with Vinny [Curry] — because Vinny can play first and second down at defensive end.”
Many look at the fact that there are three starting-caliber defensive ends on this squad and try to figure who the odd man out may be. The answer might very well be nobody. If we remember back to the Jim Washburn days, there was a need to rotate rather frequently along the d-line due to the fact that his group was running the equivalent of wind-sprints every play. Go hard, go hard, go hard and get out. There will likely be some of that under Jim Schwartz as well. He’s going to use Graham and he’s going to use Curry and he’s going to use Barwin, and he’s going to use all three at d-end.
“I think I’ll move easily to defensive end,” said Barwin, who noted that he started his pro career at the position. “It will mean going forward more than going backwards, which I think is great. I’ll be on the attack mode the entire game, so I’m very excited. I talked to him — I can play from a two-point stance, I can play from a three-point stance. So I’m excited. We’ll have a nice rotation with me, BG and Vinny Curry at the defensive end position.”
The difference in rotations actually affected Barwin very little in terms of playing time. He played slightly more in ’15 compared to the year prior, but was on the field for 87 percent of the snaps for both campaigns. Still, there is a cumulative effect when you log miles upon miles every year, which is probably part of the reason why Barwin went from 14.5 sacks to seven this past season.
The wear on the defense should be less now that Chip Kelly‘s tempo offense is out of town, and Barwin has a quality supporting cast that should help keep him fresh all the more.
Barwin also addressed the offseason moves during his appearance, including the decision to re-sign Sam Bradford.
“I think for us as a team, the most important thing this offseason was signing Sam Bradford. He’s the best quarterback I’ve ever been around,” he said. “I’m excited to see how he plays in Doug Pederson‘s offense. He continued to get healthier and healthier as the season went on. He looks great since I’ve seen him this offseason.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
Josh answers your questions in yesterday’s Wake-Up Call mailbag.
Asher rounds up the latest opinions on the Eagles in What They’re Saying.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Philly.com’s Marcus Hayes thinks that the Eagles need to draft a quarterback this spring.
Howie Roseman opened the vault and gave rookie head coach Doug Pederson his two preferred passers. Sam Bradford agreed to a 2-year, $36 million contract. Chase Daniel, the backup in Kansas City when Pederson was the coordinator, signed for 3 years and $21 million.
With that sort of investment in two healthy veterans, the Eagles should just sign, oh, Josh Freeman and be done with it. Right?
The Eagles should attend every quarterback’s Pro Day. Their QB vanguard – Pederson, offensive coordinator Frank Reich and QB coach John DeFilippo, all former quarterbacks – should invite every kid with a wing to work out in Philadelphia, decide who’s best, then draft him.
They have four picks among the top 100. One of them has to be a thrower.
The Eagles still have plenty of needs as the NFL transitions from its busy free-agent period to the draft. Actually, there are few positions we could say are completely settled or wouldn’t benefit from additional talent and depth.
But as far as holes, or areas where an immediate, starting-caliber upgrade isn’t merely essential, but a requirement, the Eagles don’t have many. In fact, there may not be any at all, at least as far as the top of the depth chart is concerned.
The Eagles did an excellent job not only re-signing their own key players offseason, but filling needs through free agency. If you look at the roster position by position, there arguably isn’t a single area where the club is lacking a capable starter at the very least.
Nolan Carroll addresses the media at 11.