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Texans pick Barwin in second round


The Texans fulfilled their commitment to fortifying their front seven in the NFL draft on Saturday, selecting defensive end Connor Barwin (6-4, 256) out of Cincinnati in the second round (46th overall). The pick came on the heels of Houston drafting USC outside linebacker Brian Cushing at No. 15 overall.

Barwin was heralded as one of the most athletic prospects in this year's draft class. He switched from tight end to defensive end before the 2008 season and finished with 15.5 tackles for loss, 12 sacks and seven pass breakups. Barwin was the only player in college football to catch a touchdown pass, register a sack and block a kick during the last season

{QUOTE}"It's pretty well-documented that he's a one year player at the defensive end position as a former tight end," general manager Rick Smith said. "But when you look at this guy athletically, he is an impressive athlete. And it's not in our opinion just that he's a height-weight-speed test guy. He's got some good football skills. He made a lot of plays and was very productive in any role that he had there at Cincinnati."

Coach Gary Kubiak said that Barwin will play defensive end for the Texans, lining up behind right end Mario Williams. Defensive end Antonio Smith, a free agent addition from the Arizona Cardinals, could move inside to tackle on passing downs to make room for Barwin, who is a talented pass rusher.

"I think he can play both sides," Kubiak said. "Probably, if we started tomorrow, he would line up behind Mario as we get going. But he's going to have the ability to play both sides. On third down, he can rush the passer. So he can go outside and rush the passer at either spot, and it gives us the flexibility to move Antonio Smith inside to rush the passer on third down, which is something that he does extremely well."

Barwin, a first-team All-Big East end, possesses tight end speed but has the high motor of a nasty defender and has drawn comparisons to Mike Vrabel.

At the 2009 NFL Scouting Combine, Barwin blew away scouts by running a 4.59 in the 40-yard dash (second best among defensive linemen) and soaring 40.5" in the vertical jump (which was first among his position group). Many scouts considered Barwin a first-day sleeper, and he said he wasn't expecting a call from the Texans.

"I was surprised when they called," Barwin said. "I know I'd had good meetings with Houston at the combine, but hadn't heard much from them since then.

"They said they were happy to get me. They saw I was still on the board about 10 picks earlier; they thought I would maybe be gone by the time it got to their pick. So they were so happy that I was still on the board and they knew they were going to pick me, and they were just excited and told me that I was going to be rushing the passer."

In 2007, Barwin started at tight end for Cincinnati in 2007 and caught 31 passes. He also played on Bearcat's basketball team, which he said improved his reaction speed and agility.

"I think when you play defensive end, you've got to play with vision," Barwin said. "You have to be able to see through tackles and see the quarterback. I think you start playing instinctually, like you do in basketball. And also batting down balls and things like that, you get that playing basketball. As far as playing tight end, I think that made it easier to make the switch in just one year. I think I know what tight ends and offensive linemen are trying to do to me when they do it, so I can see how blocks and I can see how plays are developing and I recognize them from when I was on offense."

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