The Texans D-line is always a trendy discussion topic here at BRB. Why haven't we drafted a semi at NT? Why do we love undersized DTs? Can BFD bolster the pass rush if we slip him in the middle? I want to shift attention to a position which I think will be a big strength for us this season..DE.
We have one of the best in the game in Mario, and in a season where he still made the pro-bowl with 9 sacks, we all know he played well under his potential because of the nagging injuries. Antonio Smith is a consummate professional. He works hard and plays with a chip on every play. He creates for others with tenacity and has no problem moving inside to squeeze the pocket on 3rd downs. Tim Bulman is a lunchpale guy. Earns PT through pure effort and work ethic. Very capable backup to either end. Then, theres the Texans rookie phenom that, unlike Cushing, no one is talking about. Connor Barwin is the guy that will make teams pay for paying too much attention to Mario. More after the jump..
From SCOUT and foxsports.com through connorbarwin98.com:
You should be impressed by the feat that Connor Barwin accomplished during his rookie season.
The Houston Texans defensive end posted 4.5 sacks last year while playing primarily on passing downs, posting the highest sacks total among all rookie defensive linemen from last year's draft class. But what makes that accomplishment even more special is that the seven rookie defensive linemen who were selected before Barwin collectively logged 4.5 sacks. And the draft's top two defensive end picks--Kansas City's Tyson Jackson and Buffalo's Aaron Maybin--didn't have a single sack between the two of them.
In one of my columns last April, I called out Barwin as the most versatile prospect of the 2009 NFL Draft class. His athleticism allowed him to gain serious consideration from NFL clubs at three positions--defensive end, linebacker, and tight end. He had also excelled on special teams at the University of Cincinnati and was respected for his work ethic in the weight room. While I saw him as being worthy of a late first-round pick, Barwin didn't come off the board until the 14th pick of the second round--number 46 overall--by the Houston Texans.
What a bargain.
I called him this week to ask why he thought he was able to get off to such a fast start during his first year in the league.
"I think it had a lot to do with me getting comfortable as the season went on. There were some big learning curves that took place early in the season about how to play the position in the NFL," he said. "The more comfortable you get, the more confident you get, and the easier it is to play."
Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, Cincinnati's Carson Palmer, and New England's Tom Brady all took notice of the 6-foot-4, 256-pound pass rusher last year as he brought pressure off the edge of the Texans' defensive line.
"I didn't sack him, but I knocked down Brady, and we had a nice little jawing match afterwards," Barwin said with a laugh. "And it was really cool to sack Peyton Manning, but I think the one against Carson Palmer was the most exciting one for me. Being back in Cincinnati with about 75 family and friends at the stadium watching the game, and with that one being my first NFL sack, that was really special."
After the Texans wrapped-up their season, Barwin enjoyed roughly a month of down time before getting right back into his training regimen. He's already focusing on one of his personal goals for his second NFL season.
"Hopefully I can build on my success from the second half of the season, compete for a starting job and be a three-down lineman instead of just playing in passing situations," he said.
I look for Barwin to have a serious breakout season as a pass-rusher. If he learns to play the run and is able to stay in for more then 1 down, it'll be a huge plus. What say you, BRB, on what type of year Connor Barwin can put together for our improved defense?