Jim Schwartz’s adaptive mentality could lead to important role for Connor Barwin


Connor Barwin has become a huge part of the Philadelphia Eagles franchise in a relatively short period of time. He’s not only been great on the field, but he’s also played a huge part in the Philadelphia community as well. The one question the fans have been wondering is how does he fit in the 4-3 defense?

Jim Schwartz runs a 4-3 “wide-nine” defensive alignment. Connor Barwin hasn’t played in a 4-3 since his rookie season with the Texans in 2009. He’s really hit his stride in the NFL, as a 3-4 outside linebacker. Because of this, there are some who doubt his ability to fit into Schwartz’s scheme, but that’s not the case.

Jim Schwartz has been preaching one very relevant sentiment throughout his coaching career. I believe this to be one of the more prominent factors behind the amount of success he has had as a defensive coach. Schwartz said this prior to his hiring on 97.5 the fanatic.

“I think you make a mistake if you predetermine, go in with a scheme and say this is what we’re going to do scheme-wise. I think the best system is to find out what the players do best. Then tailor your system to their skill sets.”

Jim Schwartz has been known to tailor his system to his players’ skill sets. It has worked out beautifully for him. I took a look at some clips that Eagles video content producer, Fran Duffy posted awhile back.

These clips were an in-depth look at how Jim Schwartz deployed his pass-rushers. Notice Jerry Hughes (number 55), he was originally a 3-4 outside linebacker with the Indianapolis Colts and Bills, prior to Jim Schwartz’s hiring as Bills defensive coordinator in 2014. Schwartz adjusted his scheme and let Hughes rush the passer, in essence..taking the chains off.

As you can see, Jerry Hughes on the far left, is rushing the passer standing up. You’ll notice he rushes the passer in that stance in the each of the remaining clips I show. In this specific play (above) Hughes rushes the interior of the offensive line. He breaks down the pocket, which leads to a sack.

As you see, Jerry Hughes takes away the running back’s outside lane. This leads to the Bills linebacker coming down and stopping him for a short gain.

As Fran Duffy described it. The Bills defensive line took Brady out of his comfort zone in the above clip. Jerry Hughes applied the pressure inside, while Dareus finished the sack.

The offensive tackle on this play just gets outplayed here. Barwin has done a great job of creating this type of havoc in the backfield this way during his three seasons with the Eagles. Don’t expect that to change under Schwartz either.

Yes, there’s a chance Connor Barwin won’t even start this season. He has however, taken first team reps with the defensive line during OTA”s thus far. The Buffalo Bills led the league in sacks (54), during their only season under Jim Schwartz. Eight of their defensive lineman had one or more sacks. The Eagles rotation of defensive ends will likely see just as many opportunities, if not more.

Barwin’s long-term future is up in the air with the Eagles. There’s no way the team is going to continue to pay three defensive ends starting salaries. But as of right now, Barwin looks to be on the Eagles roster for the 2016 season. Yes, Schwartz will fit Barwin’s skill set into his scheme. So those who’re worried about Barwin’s play should stop. The 2014 NFC sack leader will have a role in this defense.


Photo credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images