Few additions fit that mold better, and offer a higher upside than adding five-year veteran outside linebacker Connor Barwin from the Houston Texans.
Barwin, a 2009 second-round draft choice, has developed into a dominant edge rusher from the outside in a 3-4 scheme, but also has experience playing in the 4-3. In four seasons with the Texans, Barwin notched 81 tackles, 18 sacks and two fumble recoveries.
In Philadelphia, the Southfield, MI native will likely be asked to anchor a linebacker corps that will play behind a hybrid front, as well as grow into one of the vocal leaders on a defense in transition under first-year defensive coordinator Bill Davis Jr.
“I’m excited. I don’t know exactly how it’s going to turn out, but I’m very excited about this defense,” Barwin told a throng of reporters after practice Friday at the Novacare Complex. “I’m very excited about my role and what (defensive coordinator) Billy (Davis) has me doing right now. There’s a lot of movement. There’s a lot of versatility in what I do and I think it’s going to free me up a lot.
“I’ll be doing a little bit of everything which is good. It keeps the offense on their toes. They don’t know where I’ll be coming from because I’ll be doing different things all of the time.”
As much as rushing the passer has become a calling card of Barwin’s during his career, he also has refined his game against the run, one of the key areas the Eagles look to improve in after allowing 229.3 yards per game in 2012.
“Without a doubt, it’s been my ability to play the run [where I have improved the most]. My rookie year I was 240. That was 20 pounds ago. I was a nickel rusher,” he explained. “Every year, I gradually put on weight and ever since my second year I’ve been able to play the run a lot better than my rookie year.”
In Philadelphia, Barwin will be reunited with DeMeco Ryans, who played inside linebacker for the Texans during Barwin’s first three seasons as a pro. Ryans explained in March just what kind of player the Eagles could expect to be adding.
“As a pass rusher, Connor brings that to us,” Ryans explained. “He brings tenacity to the defense. He’s a guy who can run around and make plays. I think him coming to a new city, getting a new chance at starting over with a new team and new city, I feel like he’s going to have a really good year this year.”
Barwin’s performance, especially early on this season, will be crucial for a defense that likely will be experimenting with players such as Trent Cole and Brandon Graham as edge rushing linebackers in pass rushing situations, which makes having one sturdy and dependable outside linebacker extra important.
Matt Lombardo is also an on-air personality on 97.5 FM The Fanatic in Philadelphia. Join the conversation and follow Matt on Twitter.
*All Quotes Obtained First Hand