The Giants Guys

Connor Barwin adds depth, experience to Giants’ new defensive scheme

Sometimes when a team brings in a fresh face to augment a needy part of the roster, they get an surprising result. The player end up bringing much more to the party than they initially hoped.

That’s what has happened here with the New York Giants and the addition of OLB Connor Barwin, the 11-year veteran they signed at the outset of training camp to help regenerate their sagging pass rush.

Barwin, who will be 32 this season, is a solid pass rusher who instantly upgrades the Giants’ defense in not only that area, but others as well.

“He brings obviously a number of years of experience and also success on the field,” said LB coach Bill McGovern, who coached Barwin in Philadelphia. “He’s a guy who is a true professional, but he also adds some athleticism to our team and some proven leadership.”

And that leadership is much-needed on the defensive side the ball. His arrival has also raised the bar when it comes to the play of the outside linebackers. His intensity is infectious and has opened some eyes at camp. 

With the Giants transitioning from a 4-3 base alignment to a 3-4 under new defensive coordinator James Bettcher, they didn’t have any linebackers with OLB experience in the 3-4. They took Olivier Vernon, a 4-3 defensive end most of his career, and decided to stand him up on the outside. That so far has proven to be a wise move as Vernon appears to be embracing the role with fervor. He is looking more and more like the $85 million man the Giants thought they were getting when they signed him in free agency three years ago.

With Vernon firmly entrenched in that strong side role, the Giants are looking for production from the weak side and the hope was that rookie Lorenzo Carter can win that job. So far, he’s done just fine but there is always a need for a savvy veteran who can be inserted into a situation to give the team a boost.

“It’s funny, as these guys age, if you manage them properly you can get some quality snaps out of them,” said GM Dave Gettleman. “Now it’s about quality snaps, it’s not about quantity. Connor still has some quality snaps in him.”

Carter is somewhat in awe of the energy and knowledge Barwin has brought into the linebacker room.

“I love Connor. He’s where all of us want to be, all of us want a chance to get to. If you see that he’s doing something, then hop in.” said Carter. “He’s going to workout, I’m going to workout with him and anything he does; try to get that edge.”

 OT Nate Solder has had the unenviable task of trying to fend off Vernon, Carter, Barwin and others all summer. An eight-year veteran himself, Solder knows the value a player such as Barwin can bring to a team.

“Every time I’ve lined up against him I have a tremendous amount of respect for him, he’s a good player,” said Solder. “The more good players you could have on a team, good people like that, the better off you are I think.”

Last season, the Giants had a paltry 27 sacks as a team, which tied them for 29th in the NFL. Jason Pierre-Paul, who was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier this year, led the team with 8.5 sacks. Vernon had 6.5. No other player currently on the roster had more than two. They knew they needed to find pass rushers in a hurry. The position shift of Vernon, the drafting of Carter and the signing of Barwin might just cover it, and then some. 

Barwin would love to duplicate his Pro Bowl season of 2014 when he led the NFC in sacks with 14.5 team but he knows his job is more than to simply accumulate sacks.

“You want to get the sacks, but you have to be disruptive,” he said. “People have to know where you are at all times. You have to pressure the quarterback and be disruptive as much as you can.”

Disruptive is a good word to describe Barwin. He’s been all over the field including frequent trips into the offensive backfield and quarterback pocket. He’s also been a presence in the locker room, where he strives to be a good teammate and do whatever it takes to help the team succeed. He is just as much about helping his teammates as he is about his own performance.

“You try do whatever you can to help a guy do better,” he said. “Whether its rushing the passer, I’m trying to help the guy next to me get to the quarterback really what you’re doing is you are going to help yourself but you are going to help him, you are going to help everybody get there.”

Barwin came to the Giants because he wanted to be with a contender after a nine-year odyssey that began in Houston followed by a four-year stint with the Philadelphia Eagles. He spent last year in Los Angeles with the Rams. He sees the Giants as the perfect landing spot to continue his stellar career.

“With any 3-4 you want three guys. Not every team has it but every team wants three pass rushers”, he said. “For me I thought there was an opportunity to come here and be one of those three guys.”

And he will be. In fact he’s looking so sharp he might just end up being THE guy. 


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