Eagles’ Most Dangerous Pass Rusher: Connor Barwin


Nov 2, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Philadelphia Eagles outside linebacker Connor Barwin (98) applies pressure to Houston Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) during the third quarter at NRG Stadium. The Eagles defeated the Texans 31-21. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

In his second year in Philadelphia’s 3-4 defense, outside linebacker Connor Barwin has made quite an impression on not only the City of Brotherly Love, but the entire National Football League. Barwin has become one of the league’s most disruptive pass rushers in 2014 in his “joker” role in defensive coordinator Bill Davis’ 3-4 system.

Through nine games, Connor Barwin has amassed some impressive statistics.

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Tied for second in the league with 10.5 sacks, Barwin has been nearly unstoppable every time he’s been asked to rush the passer. Barwin has more than twice the amount of sacks than the next closest Philadelphia pass rusher Vinny Curry (5). He continues to be a force when dropping back in coverage as well. After leading all 3-4 outside linebackers last year in number of snaps in coverage in 2013, Barwin picked up 10 passes defensed and is continuing that trend of productivity in 2014.

Monday Night Football gave Barwin a stage to let the whole league see just how impactful his pass rushing can be when his number is called. Going against Carolina’s makeshift offensive line, the Eagles defense made a statement to the league as the team picked up nine sacks.

Connor Barwin picked up 3.5 by himself.

Quarterback Cam Newton looked like a shell of his former self as he was unable to gather any time to make reads due to a ferocious pass rush called by Bill Davis. Flushed from the pocket all night, Newton rarely had enough time for his receivers to gain any separation before Eagles defenders were closing in. Quarterback Mark Sanchez couldn’t have been any happier as Philadelphia’s defense created multiple turnovers providing him with short drives to gain some confidence directing head coach Chip Kelly’s offense. Sanchez capitalized on these opportunities time and time again resulting in a final score of 45-21 where even quarterback Matt Barkley was able to get in on the action.

Pro Football Focus (PFF) recently ranked the top pass rushers in the league taking not just sacks into account, but also quarterback hits and hurries. These three categories were then weighted with some multipliers to create an an accurate portrayal of just how effective a pass rusher has been and their impact on the field. These statistics were all compiled into a PFF Pass Rushing Productivity signature stat to compare just how impactful each rusher has been when given the opportunity.

Leading the league is Kansas City’s Justin Houston who has been nearly unstoppable this year. He leads the league right now in sacks with 12. Robert Ayers of the New York Giants came in second as he’s seen his career revitalized with a change of scenery after posting pedestrian numbers for the Denver Broncos. Houston’s J.J. Watt comes in at number three as he continues to fill out the stat sheet game after game as one of the most impressive players in the league.

Ranked fourth overall by PFF in pass rushing productivity, Connor Barwin’s strength, athleticism, and technique has allowed him to reach the quarterback as he’s picked up at least one sack in five of the last six games. He has routinely been able to beat his man while possessing the closing speed to get to the quarterback and finish the play for the sack. Having teammate Trent Cole on the other side has helped as well. Cole is ranked 12th on PFF’s list reinstating that the Eagles have an effective pass rushing pair that are both able to get after the quarterback. In fact, Philadelphia trails only Buffalo for the most sacks in the league.

While Philadelphia’s 32 total sacks as a defense may be inflated due to two standout games against the New York Giants (8) and Carolina (9), the defense still needs to improve consistently getting to the quarterback. The Eagles have had three games where the entire team has been unable to register a sack. If Davis can get this defensive unit to capitalize on their hurries and convert them into sacks, Barwin and the rest of the defense could really make some noise as the Eagles enter the final stretch of the season.

Connor Barwin is already one sack shy of his career record of 11.5 back in 2011. With seven more games left to play, Barwin could easily top those numbers and make his way to his first Pro Bowl. After swinging and missing on several free agents in 2013 on both sides of the ball, the Eagles hit a homerun with the their most impressive pass rusher in Connor Barwin.