The Philadelphia Eagles are transitioning to a hybrid 3-4 look on defense under new defensive coordinator Billy Davis, and one key addition that should speed up the adjustment from the 4-3 to the 3-4 is former Houston Texans linebacker Connor Barwin.
Barwin has vast experience in the 3-4 playing in it with the Texans under defensive guru Wade Phillips. Barwin’s knowledge of the system will be key as he is the only linebacker on the roster that has any experience in a 3-4 front with veteran Trent Cole and newcomers Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry having played their whole careers in a 4-3 scheme.
Barwin is a natural in coverage as he is a smooth athlete that has traditionally been able to shut down the tight end in coverage while also effectively pressuring the quarterback consistently. The versatile Barwin also has a wide array of knowledge of this system, so if any player has trouble with certain concepts or plays, Barwin is a great resource as a second coach on the field if you will to teach young and veterans players alike the nuances of playing linebacker in a 3-4 standing up as opposed to having your hand in the dirt.
Davis is going to rely on Barwin to be a Jack of all trades and do pretty much everything in the scheme from covering tight ends 15 yards down field, rushing the passer, and even blitzing and spying some of the mobile QBs in the division such as Robert Griffin III.
I expect Barwin to bounce back from what was a bit of a down year in Houston and be a double digit sack man again in Philadelphia. The Eagles have a nice trio of pass rushers to choose from in Barwin, Cole, and Graham, but I believe it is Barwin who will be the x-factor in this Eagles defense shutting down opposing pass catchers and putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Barwin says he will be “doing a bit of everything” for the Eagles on defense. That’s the idea.