Leaving Texans wasn't easy for new Eagles LB Barwin

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Leaving Texans wasn't easy for new Eagles LB Barwin

March 16, 2013, 11:15 am
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Two years ago, Connor Barwin had one main job requirement -- tackle the quarterback.

The Houston Texans had lost all-pro pass rusher Mario Williams for the season and replaced him with Barwin, who had 4½ sacks in two years.

Barwin erupted for 11½ sacks, tying for ninth-most in the NFL.

Last year, the Texans moved Barwin around and dropped their outside linebackers into coverage more often to compensate for injuries to the inside linebacker corps. Barwin mustered just three sacks.

Maybe it was the extreme drop-off in sacks. Maybe they had someone else waiting in the wings. For whatever reason, the Texans didn’t push hard enough to re-sign the former Cincinnati standout.

At least not harder than the Eagles did.

“Houston wanted to bring me back but Philadelphia wanted me a little bit more, so I ended up here,” Barwin, a 2009 second-round pick, said Friday, one day after signing a six-year deal to join the stable of pass rushers for new coach Chip Kelly and defensive coordinator Billy Davis.

It wasn’t easy to leave behind Houston, a playoff team for the past two seasons, for the rebuilding effort in Philadelphia. But Eagles general manager Howie Roseman wasn’t the only one offering his recruiting pitch. His former college roommate, Eagles center Jason Kelce, made a few calls on the team’s behalf.

“Well, I had Jason kind of recruiting me a little bit, you know, over the summer,” he said. “But I thought I was going to be back in Houston the whole process. Everybody there talked to me, and we all thought we were going to get it done there, but there were other teams that got in the mix. But Philadelphia and Howie, they talked to my agent. They figured out this was the best place for me to be.”

With Barwin in the fold, the Eagles think they have plenty of firepower to throw at opposing quarterbacks. Barwin joins Trent Cole, Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry to form a four-man rotation of outside linebackers expected to tee off on the other team’s passer.

The Eagles also have Phillip Hunt and newcomer Chris McCoy competing for roster spots as they try to focus on becoming more of an attack defense under Davis.

“I haven't delved too much into the roster, but I know Trent's here and I know Brandon Graham and any defense you need, especially with the way the game's going now, you need to be able to rotate at the defensive line position to keep guys fresh,” Barwin said. “I don't know exactly how it's going to work out, but I know you need more than two guys to do it.”

In 2011, after Williams went down for the season after five games, Barwin subbed into the “open side” of Houston's 3-4 scheme, a position that exclusively rushes the passer. Last year, he rotated between the open and closed sides and was asked to bump tight ends before heading for the quarterback.

“And anyone that rushes the passer knows that's going to slow down your rush a little more,” he said. “So there were those types of things that happened last year that had an effect.”

Barwin isn’t sure what Davis has planned for him. But he’s fairly certain the rebuilt Eagles defense can quickly get rounded into shape and justify his decision to bolt from Houston, a team with 22 wins over the past two years.

“Well, you know, we think we can rebuild pretty quickly here,” he said. “It doesn't take that long. And, obviously, it was hard to leave Houston. You make a lot of strong friendships. And I was there for four years and we started something, but my time's over there and it's time to move on.”

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