As I wrote in this story in today’s newspaper, Vikings outside linebacker Anthony Barr has been wearing a few different hats for the Vikings, who are already putting the rookie’s versatile skill set to use. But one of the things that excites them most is his upside as a pass rusher coming off the edge.
Barr had 23.5 sacks in two seasons as a 3-4 outside linebacker at UCLA. His size and his success in that scheme left some draft analysts scratching their heads, saying he wasn’t a fit for the Vikings. The Vikings quickly made it clear, though, that they had a special role in mind for their top pick.
That role includes rushing off the edge in sub packages or blitzing up the gut as a stand-up ‘backer.
Barr has already impressed veteran teammate Brian Robison with his pass-rushing prowess.
“He’s got good speed,” Robison said yesterday. “A lot of us are speed rushers on this team. The one thing that we do well is beat guys with speed then try to set up other moves off of that. I think he’s no different. He’s a great speed guy off the edge and has decent moves to go along with it.”
Barr showed off one nice counter move during yesterday’s practice. After lining up over the outside shoulder of left tackle Matt Kalil, he burst off the line toward the inside. Kalil shuffled to his right to deny a path to quarterback Matt Cassel, but Barr dusted him with a spin move to the outside. He chased after Cassel but couldn’t get there in time as the quarterback had quickly rolled to his right.
While Barr is usually with linebackers coach Adam Zimmer during position drills, he also spends time working with defensive line coach Andre Patterson, who is helping him with his pass-rushing moves.
“I’ve just got to continue to work at that and hopefully I can make an impact when I’m asked to rush the passer,” said Barr, who is trying to get used to rushing from a three-point or four-point stance.
Head coach Mike Zimmer said the Vikings still have to develop him "a little bit more" as a rusher.
"In college, you can run around guys," Zimmer said. "You can't do that here in this league."
Still, they expect immediate contributions from Barr, who should start right away. They have been impressed with him from a mental standpoint, saying he has been a sponge, soaking up Xs and Os.
“He’s really one of those guys that want to learn,” Robison said. “With rookies, you sometimes have to pull them along, but he’s doing a great job of getting into our defense, getting into our book, learning our schemes and things like that. We look forward to him having a huge year for us.”