Lance Zierlein of Chron.com doesn't mince his words in a blog post from early this morning: "Connor Barwin might just be the most important piece on the defensive side of the ball this year."
Zierlein, who co-hosts the morning show on 1560 AM KGOW in Houston, cites Barwin's "terrific feet" and quickness as reasons that he might be able to turn the team's pass rush around. The Texans ranked 25th in the league in sacks in 2009, but Barwin led all NFL rookie defensive linemen with 4.5 sacks as a second-round draft pick out of Cincinnati. As Zierlein notes, it was only Barwin's second season playing defense after he spent three years in college at tight end.
Earlier this offseason, Texans defensive coordinator Frank Bush shared with HoustonTexans.com that Barwin is the type of player who could potentially change the complexion of the defense.
"He is a tremendous athlete," Bush said. "There are things he can do that other defensive ends on our team and on other teams can't do, and we're going to try to take advantage of it in the sense of using him in space, using him standing up, hitting different gaps from a standup position, giving different looks, not allowing the offense to kind of get a beat on us and exactly what we're doing."