Film study: Barr’s big plays

As the Minnesota Vikings search for new rookies, we begin to review last year’s rookies, starting with impressive first-round linebacker Anthony Barr. We review his big plays and even a few mistakes, showing just how much potential he has.

Even though Anthony Barr’s rookie season was cut short a year ago, it was still an impressive one. He demonstrated strength, the ability to learn quickly and an ability to make game-changing plays.

Barr had only played linebacker for two years at UCLA after switching over from the offensive side of the ball. And even though he was listed as a linebacker, he was primarily used as a pass rusher because of his speed and athleticism. He never really had to focus on the other areas of the game linebackers have to focus on, so there were some question marks surrounding him on draft day.

The Minnesota Vikings saw the upside in Barr and decided to take a chance on him with the No. 9 overall pick. They originally possessed the No. 8 pick, but traded back one spot in order to secure more draft picks.

Since Barr first arrived at Winter Park, the coaching staff and veteran defenders raved about his ability to pick up the playbook quickly, and it showed on the field. He led the team in tackles for the first part of the season, and he became a player Mike Zimmer trusted to remain on the field, an every-down type of player. Barr even took over the play-calling responsibilities when Chad Greenway was forced to miss time with injury.

Even though Barr had a good rookie season there are still things he will have to continue to work on. The biggest is probably continuing to improve his pass coverage. He was not forced to drop back into coverage very often while playing at UCLA so it makes sense that he might struggle there in the NFL.

However, if he hopes to continue to improve his game and one day become a complete player, that is one of the areas he will need to improve on.

With the draft soon approaching, Viking Update takes a look at how the Vikings’ No. 1 pick a year ago performed during his rookie season.

Play No. 1
This first play is one that all Vikings fans will remember. The Vikings held a 10-0 lead over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but that lead would eventually diminish and the game would go into overtime. The Bucs started overtime with the ball on their 17-yard line, and on the first play of the game quarterback Mike Glennon dropped back to pass and connected with tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

Seferian-Jenkins made the catch and turned up field. Barr then ran him down from behind, stripped the ball, recovered the fumble and ran it into the end zone, winning the game for the Vikings.

This could very well be the biggest defensive play of the season that was made by a Vikings player, and it came in overtime, which made it all the more impressive. Seferian-Jenkins originally ran past Barr, but the linebacker showed that he has enough recovery speed to catch him, and then enough strength to strip the ball.

Not every player can make this type of play, and it was this play that really made Barr one of the front-runners for Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Play No. 2
This next play may not seem like anything special, but it showcases Barr’s strength and his ability to use leverage to his advantage. He begins the play lined up on the left side of the defensive line across from the Green Bay Packers tight end Richard Rodgers.

When the ball is snapped, Barr is able to recognize that it is a run play moving away from him. He is then able to use his strength to get under the pads of Rodgers and get to the inside. Once on the inside, he is able to utilize his leverage to move along the length of the offensive line to where Eddie Lacy is running the ball.

Once Barr reaches Lacy, he is able to grab him with just one hand and bring him to the ground. The reason he only uses one hand is because the other one is still tied up with Rodgers who is still trying to block him. This is impressive because Lacy is a 229-pound running back and plenty of players have trouble bringing him down with two arms, let alone just one.

Even though plays like this are not big flashy ones, they are important because Barr was able to stop Lacy for a short gain, which then puts the Packers into second-and-long.

Play No. 3
In this next play, Barr shows another important skill that linebackers should possess – the ability to disguise his blitzes. Before the ball is snapped, Barr is lined up on the line, showing blitz, but drops back as if he is going into coverage once the ball is snapped.

Then after waiting for a half a second or so he sees an opening and bursts through it and is able to sack Matt Ryan. Barr is able to make it to the quarterback untouched on this play, and it all started with his ability to disguise his blitz and act as though he was going to be dropping back into coverage.

Barr’s ability to blitz the quarterback was one of the primary reasons that the Vikings drafted him. When you play in a division with Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler, being able to get after the quarterback is always important. In this play, Barr shows one of the multiple ways he is able to do so.

Play No. 4
In this next play, Barr shows his ability to recognize a play and break it up. As mentioned earlier, he still needs to improve in pass coverage but he did show progress in the area.

Here Barr drops back into coverage and sees the running back coming out of the backfield and the pulling guard moving over. He is instantly able to recognize it as a screen and runs in to break it up. He is able to beat the pulling lineman to the ball carrier and makes the tackle before anything is able to come of the play.

This ability to quickly recognize a play shows the improvements he has made since college and his ability to quickly pick up on a defensive schemes. Not only that, but it shows that Barr spends plenty of time in the film room studying his opponent.

It is good to see that Barr is able recognize plays like this at such a young age, and as he continues to develop he should only continue to improve.

Play No. 5
This next play, however, shows that Barr is still a young player and does make some mistakes. This one in particular is while defending the pass. Barr drops back into coverage and then bites to the inside of the field. If he had stayed up he would have been in a lot better position to make a play.

The running back came out of the backfield and it looked as through Barr thought he would go one way, but instead the back went the other. Once Barr bit on the play he was out of position. Instead, he was forced to chase the running back down from behind and by the time he caught him he had already reached the first-down marker.

These are the type of mistakes that young players will make, and all coaches can do is teach them how to do it right and hope they don’t make the same mistakes again. Luckily for Barr, he was able to make up for this mistake against the Bucs, and any other mistakes he made in the game, by his game-winning play in overtime.

Unfortunately for Barr, his season was cut short when the Vikings decided to place him on injured reserve. But while he was healthy and on the field, he proved that he has what it takes to be a playmaker on the defensive side of the ball that has the ability to change games.

Of course there are still areas of his game that he needs to continue to improve, but he definitely appears to be on the right track. And he has a very good defensive coaching staff in place around him that should continue to help him develop.


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