In his first year with the Eagles, Connor Barwin has had a really good season. He is by far the most versatile of the Eagles' OLBs, and clearly the most comfortable playing the position. While he does not have elite numbers at any of the following things statistically, he does a very good job of dropping into coverage, playing the run, and rushing the passer. He is a complete player, and a very valuable piece in this improving Eagles defense.
Earlier in the week, a reporter asked defensive coordinator Billy Davis what Barwin does that doesn't show up in the stat sheet.
"Connor makes the scheme go," said Davis. "We move him around ‑‑ the position is called the 'Jack,' the Jack of all trades, is what it was originally named. We move him around and we have different techniques we use with him and he's great with picking them up; if I need an edge set on one side or a certain reroute or chip, Connor is the guy we go to. He wears a lot of hats and doesn't get as many rushes as he would like but does a lot of things for the defense that it's unselfish on his part. He would love to be rushing every down and getting more sacks but he's dropping and doing more other things and never says a word about it."
While Davis didn't mention it, there IS something more specific that Barwin is doing that is not showing up in traditional stat sheets.
Barwin has batted down more passes than any player in the NFC, according to ProFootballFocus. On the season, PFF has him credited with 6 batted passes, which would tie him with "batted pass legend" J.J. Watt of the Texans. There is only one other player in the NFL with more, per PFF. That would be the Jaguars' Sen'Derrick Marks.
Batted passes can lead to great things for a defense. At a minimum, if you can bat a pass at the line of scrimmage, you're going to get an incomplete pass, barring some flukey play in which the pass lands in the arms of an opposing receiver anyway. They can also lead to interceptions if you can affect the trajectory of the pass by tipping it, or by simply getting a hand in the QBs face, making the him adjust his throw in the same way a basketball player might throw up a bad shot to avoid it from being blocked.
I actually have Barwin down for at least 7 batted passes this season, not 6, which are all shown below. The important thing to note is that on 6 of Barwin's 7 batted passes, the drive stalled during that set of downs.
1) 3rd and 3 at the Eagles' 16 yard line. Drive killer ends in a FG attempt:
2) 1st down form the Giants 49. The Giants would eventually pick up a first down on a Brandon Boykin pass interference call on 3rd and 10. Mychal Kendricks almost intercepted the ricochet on this play:
3) 1st down at the Eagles' 22. That set of downs ended with a FG attempt:
4) 2nd and 29 from the Giants' 17. The Giants were already in a deep hole on this drive, but Barwin helped make sure it went nowhere:
5) 3rd and goal from the Eagles' 10. The Raiders turned it over on downs on the following play:
6) 3rd and 4 from the Eagles' 7 yard line. Barwin swats down a pass. The Packers would turn the ball over on downs on the following play:
7) 3rd and 11 from the Redskins' 39. Barwin's batted pass ended the Skins' opening drive:
The Eagles as an entire defense had 6 batted passes on the season in 2012, according to PFF. Barwin has already surpassed that on his own in 2013. While the Eagles have not yet gotten a huge play like an interception off of one of Barwin's swats at the line, he has successfully helped kill a large number of drives.
You best not try to throw over Manute Barwin.