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Barwin getting sack-happy


Rookie defensive end Connor Barwin is turning heads with his raw ability.

His fake spin needs work. He's breaking in a new sack dance. He's playing only his second year at defensive end. Still, the Texans believe they've found a keeper in second-round draft pick Connor Barwin.

It took Barwin, a rookie from the University of Cincinnati, less than a half of his first pro game to get his first sack. It came Saturday in the second quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs. It was not a move that will get him a spot on "Dancing With the Stars" and it didn't impress defensive line coach Bill Kollar.

"My coach said that might have been the worst (fake spin) he'd ever seen, but he said the end of it was good that I finished the play and didn't miss the sack," Barwin said. "He got on me a little, but he helped me after that."

Maybe Barwin didn't get points for style, but the early big play drew attention.

"The guys were happy for me," he said. "You get your first one and it's exciting for a rookie. You get a lot of razzing too, because, you know, who gets a sack off a fake spin? It was all fun."

The Texans are hoping Barwin will develop into a pass rushing monster like Pro Bowler Mario Williams, who had 12 sacks last season. Williams likes the addition to the defensive line mix that includes Barwin and Antonio Smith.

"It's great, both of the defensive ends are and so is everyone else on the defensive line," Williams said. "It's a good thing for us to come out here and play with each other and get ourselves to the point where I know what he's doing and he knows what I'm doing.

"We need to get to the point where we're just able to feel off one another and play the game. It's all about attitudes. It's all about being physical, being in tune with the game and being consistent."

It's amazing Barwin is even at a pro camp as a defensive end. He played tight end much of his college career and moved to defensive end as a senior with startling results. Using speed as his primary asset, Barwin totaled 53 tackles and 12 sacks in one season for the Bearcats. Barwin's senior performance earned All-America honors and alerted the Texans to make him the 46th pick in the 2009 draft.

Kollar liked Barwin's effort against the Chiefs. He wasn't enamored with his move that led to his sack, but it's something to build on.

"He kept running into the guy all game and he finally just made one little move that enabled him to go right by the guy," Kollar said. "He's only played defensive end for one year, so it's not like he's got a lot of reserve to rely on. It's a process. It will take time to get him up to snuff and playing like we want him to."

Barwin got his first opportunity to practice his sack dance against the Chiefs. He'd been choreographing his moves in camp.

{QUOTE}"We couldn't do that in college," Barwin said. "I knew what I was going to do so I was happy with it. I hope you can see that a lot this year."

It's fine with coach Gary Kubiak if Barwin celebrates his sacks. He's more interested in seeing Barwin get better prior to dancing.

"It's about reps with him," Kubiak said. "Being a defensive player for one year, (he needs to know when) to be in a zone dog, I'm dropping now, it's a run and I don't drop, stuff like that. He just needs a ton of reps as a ballplayer and he's getting them."

Barwin's transformation from offense to defense came quickly going into last season at Cincinnati.

"I'd prepared to have a great year at tight end," Barwin said. "I was in great shape. We had a good team. Then they moved me to defensive end. It just kind of happened naturally. I enjoyed playing the position and it all worked out fine."

Barwin feels he's found his best position.

"I definitely want to be playing defensive end," he said. "I'm definitely a better D end than a tight end. I had fun playing tight end when I did it and I thought I was pretty good, but playing defense is more fun. You get to be in the attack mode all the time. They have to react to you."

Barwin begins his pro career rather smallish for a pro defensive end at 6-4, 256 pounds. Speed was his forte in college and it also will help with the Texans. He learned quickly it will take more than a fake spin move to get it done in the NFL.

"In college, the one move I played off of was my speed and that's not going to get it done in the NFL," Barwin said. "You have to do other things and counter moves. I have to work on my spin, my fake spin in and other moves to help the speed work.

"My general strength will keep improving. I need to get better at that, but I don't think I need to put on any mass. Speed is what I need to use. I play fastest at 255-260. "

Kubiak is looking for the whole package with Barwin. He'll need to fall back into coverage, too.

"He did that a little bit in college, but it's something you have to learn, all those zone dogs, middle hooks, going outside, curl plays and that type of thing," Kubiak said. "He's a smart player, so he's picking it up real quick."

Barwin certainly isn't intimidated by professional football.

"My two initial impressions are that I'm capable and talented enough to play pro football," Barwin said. "And, without a doubt, I have a whole bunch to learn to be able to play the position and be productive at it."

Barwin is coming to the Texans as they try to improve their overall defense.

"I think I'm coming into a great situation," Barwin said. "The Texans' defense is better than it ever has been and with me, I think I can help and bring something to the defense.

"As a player, when you can play alongside Mario Williams as a pass rusher, that's great. The only thing that can help you as a pass rusher is another pass rusher. That's a good opportunity for me."

Barwin hopes for a quicker start in his second preseason game against the Saints on Saturday.

"I might have started a little hesitant a little, it was my first game," Barwin said. "The one thing my coach did say that at least I was running around the field. That's something that I'll keep doing."

Kollar pointed out even Williams had an adjustment from his rookie year.

"He was the first pick in the draft three years ago here," Kollar said. "He came in and struggled and didn't have the year everyone thought he would. We know it's going to take time.

"You hope you can get enough out of him (Barwin) this year as a pass rusher to help. All he's got is upside in front of him. He'll keep getting better and better. You can't coach that speed. You've got to coach all that other stuff. That's one thing you want to have."

Helping Barwin with his sack dance isn't in Kollar's job description. He does hope that improves, too.

"Now that WAS the worst I've ever seen," Kollar said.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Michael A. Lutz worked for The Associated Press for 38 years covering news and sports in Louisville, Ky. Dallas and Houston. Most of that time was spent in Houston covering the Oilers, Astros, Texans and other college and pro sports.

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