According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Birds sent five rushers or more at Robert Griffin 22 times. On those plays, he went 9-for-20 for 78 yards, an interception and was sacked twice. Keep in mind, as a rookie, Griffin completed 69 percent of his attempts against the blitz, throwing nine touchdowns and no interceptions, per Stats, Inc.
Last year, according to Football Outsiders, the Eagles rushed four 77.8 percent of the time, tops in the league. But that number is going to take a dip in 2013.
“The scheme is built to where any member of the defense can be blitzing at any given time,” Davis said. “We have blitzes for every position – corners, safeties, nickels, dimes, mike backers. Anybody can be a blitzer. Either through an active call or a check.”
When Chip Kelly introduced James Casey back in March, he described the tight end as “a new toy” who could line up in various spots in his offense.
He didn’t use the same terminology when the Eagles signed outside linebacker Connor Barwin, but really, that’s what Kelly was giving Billy Davis on the defensive side of the ball.
Much of the talk around Barwin has been about how his sack total dropped from 11.5 in 2011 to just 3.0 in 2012. But the truth is Barwin’s versatility is what the Eagles found most attractive when they brought him on board. Moving from a Wide-9 4-3 to a 3-4, they needed an outside linebacker equipped to handle a number of different responsibilities. And that’s what they got in Barwin.
Already this preseason, the 26-year-old is being used in a variety of ways. And against Jacksonville, he showed some play-making chops with an interception and a sack in the first half.
Defensive coordinator Billy Davis said that his game plan for the Panthers was “pretty much the same” one that he put together for the Patriots the week before. Same techniques, same principles, same basic calls. It was just the results that were different.
A unit that surrendered 248 rushing yards (8.0 average) to the Patriots in the preseason opener limited Carolina to just 74 rushing yards on 25 attempts (3.0 average) Thursday night. The first unit yielded just a pair of field goals in the Eagles’ 14-9 win.
“It was so new, the scheme was so new,” said Davis of the first preseason game. “Everybody wanted to do well so bad. I think we pressed a little bit. Tonight felt a lot more relaxed, guys just taking care of their job more than anything.”
Part of my contribution for this year’s Eagles Almanac (pre-order here!) focuses on the defense, and specifically Connor Barwin.
So I’ve been looking at quite a bit of All-22 over the past few days and have been surprised by some of the skills that Barwin brings to the table.
Barwin had 11.5 sacks during the 2011 regular season. Is he ever going to reach that mark again? If I had to bet my life savings (about 27 dollars, as of this afternoon), I’d say no. He only has 7.5 sacks in his other 37 career games (playoffs included).
But because of Barwin’s versatility, it’s easy to see why Howie Roseman, Chip Kelly and Billy Davis felt he could be a fit in this defense.