Connor Barwin is a Los Angeles Ram. With him comes experience, versatility as a pass rusher, and needed experience in a 3-4 defense.
All three things the Rams will need this season as the defense transitions from their original 4-3 scheme.
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ arrival in Los Angeles spelled the end of the 4-3 defense for the Rams. The old defensive scheme was the first piece of the Rams dying puzzle to be thrown out. In that scheme, the Rams were one of the most dominant defenses in the league. But with the departures of major pieces, the defense proved to be more of a liability than insurance against opposing defenses. The Rams weren’t able to fill those positions with viable replacements. The defense crumbled, along with the rest of the team.
Enter Phillips and the 3-4.
When he took over as the Houston defensive coordinator in 2011, Phillips oversaw a complete overhaul of the Texans defense. In the first season under Phillips, the Texans defense became first in defensive yards allowed, second in sacks, and passing touchdowns allowed, to name a few of their accolades.
The Rams will hope for the same turnaround with Phillips at the helm. They are hope Barwin can rekindle the fire that made him a start in 2011 and 2014, when his sack totals reached the double-digits. Los Angeles signed Barwin on a 1-year deal, worth up to $6 million to replace the traded William Hayes and shore up the opposite side of Robert Quinn.
His first season in Philly saw him gain 14.5 sacks, which led the NFC. But the following seasons produced five and seven sacks respectively. The drop to single-digit production could be blamed on the shuffling in the Eagles defense, change in position to left end, among other changes in Jim Schwartz defense.
Barwin, however, ranked third in disrupted dropbacks of opposing quarterbacks from 2011 to 2015. He had 76 interrupted dropbacks.
A lot of Barwin’s attractions comes from beyond the stat sheet. He is a tall and lean rusher who has the versatility to get around the bigger, slower offensive linemen. His strength is impressive as well, often times showcasing that in bullrushes that collapse the pocket.
Barwin also keeps solid outside containment, and provides the security to combat the end-around, sweeps, or reverses.
But Barwin hasn’t been looked at in as favorable light by ProFootballFocus. As of late, PFF graded him the lowest player in the Eagle’s front seven, a far cry from the expectations set in 2013.
Fortunately for Barwin and the Rams, Phillips has a history with the former Texans pass rusher. There is no doubt Phillips will properly utilize him in the Rams defense. Already Barwin is predicted to be moved back to outside linebacker, where he belongs. From that position, Barwin has the ability to drop back into cover easily, and dive bomb the right tackle for the sack.