Philadelphia Eagles

Connor Barwin opens up about declining production, future with Eagles

Connor Barwin opens up about declining production, future with Eagles

His salary went up, his production went down, and Connor Barwin understands that at 30 years old and with the second-lowest sack total of his career, there is going to be plenty of speculation about his future.

And he knows it’s already started.

“It bothers me that I don’t have more sacks, so I understand why it bothers other people,” Barwin said at his locker Thursday. “So it’s been a tough year.

“But I know the game is much more than just that, so I try to keep things in perspective.”

Barwin recorded 26½ sacks in three years playing in a 3-4 front under Bill Davis, sixth-most in the NFC during that span and also sixth-most among all NFL linebackers.

But with the coaching change, a new defensive coordinator and a new system, Barwin went from 3-4 left outside linebacker to a 4-3 right defensive end, and his sacks dropped to four this year, including none in the last six weeks.

With upcoming base salaries of $7.75 million and $9.25 million in 2017 and 2018 and cap figures of $7.35 million and $8.35 million, the speculation about Barwin’s future is understandable.

The Eagles would absorb only $600,000 in dead cap money if they released Barwin this offseason, and Barwin’s age — he turned 30 in October — and declining production combined with his cap number add up to a huge question mark about his future for the cap-strapped team.

Barwin said it wasn’t appropriate to talk specifics until after the season but indicated Thursday he would consider taking a pay cut to stay in Philly.

“I expect to be here,” he said. “I know it’s something everybody’s talking about. And hopefully we work something out.”

Barwin said that while he’s disappointed in his production — four sacks would be his fewest since he had a career-low three for the Texans in 2012 — at least some of it is related to his move to the right side, where he faces the opposing team’s best offensive tackle every Sunday.

“I go against the best guy every single week, so if you want to talk about lack of productivity, the last three years, I’ve been on the left, going against not the best offensive lineman,” he said.

“So there’s that big change. And hopefully looking forward, I can go back to the left side.”

Barwin said none of his coaches ever approached him and explained why he was moving from left side to right, but he has a pretty good idea why the switch was made.

“I think what happened was Vinny (Curry) became a starter after he signed his contract and Vinny played on the left with me,” he said. “I played on the left and Vinny played left 3-technique. 

"When Vinny signed that deal, he became a starter, so Vinny gets put to the left and I got bumped to the right, and then B.G. (Brandon Graham) bumps Vinny and B.G. goes to the left and then we just kind of roll with it.

“And no real competitor is going to say, ‘Hey, move me back to the left.’ You’re going to play where they put you.

“There was never any talk about it, it just kind of happened. The depth chart just kind of came.”

Barwin, a second-team All-Pro two years ago, took the switch as a challenge and never complained about it. Even though he knew his numbers would suffer.

And they have. Dramatically.

“I’d rather face guys who aren’t that good and get more sacks, if I’m going to be completely honest,” he said with a laugh. “But when we made the switch, the competitor in me … I was like, ‘Bleep, I’ll take this challenge,’ because that’s how competitors think and how you want to think.

“Even next year if I stay on the right I’ll still try to take advantage of that opportunity. But it is a whole different element.”

Sacks aren’t the only number that’s down for Barwin as a 4-3 end as opposed to a 3-4 linebacker.

In three years under Davis, including a 2014 Pro Bowl season, Barwin averaged 81 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, eight pass breakups and played an average of 66 snaps per game.

This year, he’s got 38 tackles, four tackles for loss and two pass breakups and has averaged 45 snaps per game.

“I obviously know there’s a lot of room for improvement and there’s definitely going to be growth from my first year in the defense to the next, like there should be for everybody,” Barwin said. “Like there was from my first year in Billy Davis’ 3-4 to my second year. I went from five sacks to almost 15 sacks.

“So I’m very excited about the growth that can happen from Year 1 to Year 2. There are little nuances in the defense and even the way (defensive coordinator) Jim (Schwartz) calls the game, just kind of understanding the way he calls the game and what teams are going to do.

“It’s something that I think even in the last couple weeks I’ve been a lot better at. And that takes time.”

Asked to evaluate his own play, Barwin gave a mixed response.

“Well, I think there were a couple games I’d want back that I didn’t play as good as I think I could have played,” he said. “And I would probably say that for about every year I’ve ever played in my career. There’s always one or two games you’d want back.

“But the season as a whole, I think I’ve improved as the season’s gone on, I’ve done my job for the most part, and I’m excited to see what I can do in Year 2 in this system.”

We all know how deeply ingrained Barwin is in the South Philadelphia community. His Make the World Better Foundation does incredible grassroots work, from his annual playground revitilization projects to his benefit concerts at Union Transfer to rebuilding athletic fields and rec centers in inner-city neighborhoods and much, much more.

When asked why he wants to finish his career in Philly, his first answer — said with a laugh — was: “I’ve got about $4 million in park projects that I want to be here for. I’m serious about that, too.”

Then he really did grow serious.

“I mean, really, this has become my home and you guys all know I love living in this city,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for Mr. (Jeff) Lurie and my teammates that are here and the different neighborhoods that I’m involved in, the guys that have played here before me, the guys that are playing here now.

“I think it’s a great honor to play for this organization and I want to be here when they win and be a part of it.”

NFL Notes: Emergence of Steelers rookie T.J. Watt signals changing of the guard

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NFL Notes: Emergence of Steelers rookie T.J. Watt signals changing of the guard

LATROBE, Pa. -- Pittsburgh Steelers first-round pick T.J. Watt will take all the preseason snaps he can get at right outside linebacker.

And perhaps most of them in the regular season too, a fact the man he is in the process of replacing isn't fighting.

James Harrison is the Steelers' all-time sacks leader, including a team-high five last season at the not-so tender age of 38.

The now-39-year-old Harrison doesn't care who has the starting spot he's held for the better part of a decade as long as it results in another Lombardi Trophy for the Steelers.

"I'm not worried about it," Harrison said Wednesday. "Whatever they want me to do. I'm 39 years old and still playing football."

Saints: Team replaces 2 doctors after Breaux misdiagnosis
METAIRIE, La. -- Saints coach Sean Payton says cornerback Delvin Breaux needs lower-leg surgery that will sideline him about six weeks and that an initial misdiagnosis of Breaux's injury has sparked a shake-up in the team's medical staff.

Payton says Breaux has a fibula fracture that was initially diagnosed as a contusion. Breaux has missed more than a week of practice and Payton said he had been getting frustrated with the pace of Breaux's recovery, based on the initial diagnosis.

"I certainly was pushing him, based on the information I was getting," Payton said.

The coach said the Saints will replace two orthopedic surgeons and in the meantime receive help from Chargers physicians during joint practices in California leading up to their game Sunday in Los Angeles (see full story).

Patriots: Ageless Brady not slowing down at 40
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Training camp is easier for Tom Brady at age 40 than it was when he entered the NFL in 2000.

Brady, who turned 40 on Aug. 3, was asked how camp with the New England Patriots is different for him now that he's one of the older players in the league.

"I think it's a lot easier for me now than it's ever been," he said. "I feel like my routine's better than it's ever been. When you're younger you don't know what to do, and after 17 years, going on my 18th year I know what to do. I know how to prepare."

Redskins: Safety Cravens undergoes knee surgery
ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins safety Su'a Cravens had knee surgery and there's no official timeline for him to return.

Coach Jay Gruden says Cravens had a knee scope to clean out some issues with his meniscus. Gruden says Cravens was injured on the third play of the Redskins' first preseason game last week at Baltimore.

With Cravens out, Deshazor Everett has taken most of the snaps as the first-team free safety and could start there when the Redskins host the Green Bay Packers on Saturday.

Tight end Jordan Reed, who's on the physically unable to perform list with a left big toe injury, isn't expected to play Saturday. Receiver Jamison Crowder, who has been bothered by a hamstring injury, said the plan is for him to play against the Packers.

Packers: TE Bennett ‘the quarterback whisperer’
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Call Martellus Bennett the "quarterback whisperer."

The Green Bay Packers' tight end is with his third team in as many seasons, which means another training camp of building rapport with a new quarterback. He's proven to be productive at every stop.

Bennett is confident he'll do just fine connecting with Aaron Rodgers, even if the veterans might get limited reps together in preseason games.

"I need all the reps I can (get) with Aaron -- practice reps, game reps, meeting room reps. Any rep I can get with him I'll try to get whether it's just whispering to him, try to be the quarterback whisperer," the always-entertaining Bennett said. "Over-communicate and over-rep every single thing we could possibly do."

Doug Pederson, Sean McDermott have same Coach of the Year odds

Doug Pederson, Sean McDermott have same Coach of the Year odds

In a complete and utter shock, Bill Belichick is Bovada's favorite to win NFL Coach of the Year. 

Belichick is 7/1 to win the award, followed by Oakland's Jack Del Rio (9/1) and Green Bay's Mike McCarthy (10/1).

Despite the expected success of the Patriots, Belichick doesn't seem like a great bet because his team is so loaded. Anything short of 14-2 would probably make it difficult for Belichick to win the award for the fourth time. (He took it home in 2003, 2007 and 2010.)

Carolina's Ron Rivera and Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin (12/1) round out the top five.

Doug Pederson is toward the bottom at 33/1, in a tie with nine others, including first-year Bills head coach and former Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott.

The reigning Coach of the Year, Jason Garrett, is 20/1 to repeat. If the Cowboys are able to win the NFC East with Ezekiel Elliott suspended for six games, he might deserve it.

The longest odds, 50/1, belong to Todd Bowles (Jets), Jim Caldwell (Colts), John Fox (Bears), Adam Gase (Dolphins), Hue Jackson (Browns), Marvin Lewis (Bengals) and Sean McVay (Rams), for reasons that should be pretty obvious.