BGA: Scouting TJ Barnes

Bent, TheJetsBlog.com

Throughout April, I’ll be looking at some of the players the Jets have added to the active roster since the end of the regular season. Jets fans might not know too much about these players, so I’ll be looking at NFL game footage to try and assess what they might be able to bring to the table.

Today we’re going to look at defensive lineman TJ Barnes, who the Jets signed to a futures deal at the end of the season. The 23-year old Barnes is listed at an enormous 6’7″ and 364 pounds. He was undrafted last year out of Georgia Tech and spent time with Jacksonville in preseason before signing with the Jets in October and spending the remainder of the season on the practice squad. His cousin is former Jets tight end Fred Baxter.

After the jump, a brief look at footage from his time with Jacksonville to try and assess some of his strengths and weaknesses.

Who is TJ Barnes?

In college at Georgia Tech, Barnes gradually worked his way into the rotation and was a full time starter by his senior year, earning all-ACC honorable mention honors. At the scouting combine he showed impressive athleticism for his size when he ran a sub-5.2 forty yard dash (with the same time as Kenrick Ellis). He was a projected late round pick in last year’s draft, but went undrafted.

The Jaguars signed him after the draft and he played for them in all four preseason games before being a final cut. He had recorded five tackles and a pass deflection. The Jets signed him in October and he remained on the practice squad all the way to the end of the season.

Barnes played over 100 snaps in preseason, so I watched every play to get an insight into his potential.

Week One – v Miami

Barnes played 26 snaps, all in the second half, recording three tackles and a pass deflection.

As you’d expect, Barnes is good at holding his ground. On one play, he held his ground well and bottled up the run right at him. The only times he was driven off the line were when he was double teamed, although on a couple of occasions he was pushed back by an initial double team but then able to recover his ground when one of the linemen peeled off.

Barnes was removed from the game on passing downs, but when they did pass with him in there, he was generally limited to trying to push his blocker back. There was only one play where he really drove his man back and his route to the quarterback was blocked off by the center coming across. He did get his hands up in the passing lane, deflecting one pass incomplete.

On outside runs, Barnes made a good effort to stay in front of the play, although there was one play where he didn’t get across in time and another where he allowed himself to be taken out of the play because his momentum was going downhill on a cutback run. When moving downhill, he was able to use his size to drive his blocker toward the path of the runner a couple of times. He was cut at the line on one play, where he could perhaps have shown better awareness.

Miami scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter on a play that Barnes almost blew up. He got good penetration into the backfield, but was unable to make the stop in the backfield. See that play here.

Week Two – at NY Jets

Barnes played 36 snaps, all in the second half, recording one tackle. He played two snaps as a nose tackle, which is notable because every other snap he had in preseason was as a defensive tackle in a four man front.

In this game, Barnes was blocked out of a few plays, but did show a good effort to keep persevering. On one play he was blocked to the outside initially but fought it off to pursue to the inside and on another he was initially blocked at the point of attack but was eventually able to get in on a tackle in the backfield as the runner was forced to cut back inside.

As a pass rusher, he drove Caleb Schlauderaff back on one play, but was mostly handled with double teams. There was one play where he didn’t get any kind of surge but did keep the quarterback contained in the pocket when he stepped up, leading to a sack from behind.

Again most of his best work was in terms of holding his ground to bottle up runs, but there was one play where he fought through traffic going downhill to get in on a run stuff. Perhaps his most impressive play saw him burst into the backfield to almost disrupt the hand-off on a draw play. As in the previous game there was one play when he overpursued downhill and was blocked inside leading to a cutback lane. There were a couple of goal line plays with him anchoring the middle. The Jets were stuffed on the first but just broke the plane on the other.

Week Three – v Philadelphia

Barnes played 16 snaps, all in the last 6:16. He recorded one tackle.

There was one play where he helped contribute to a tackle for a loss by driving his blocker into the path of the runner. On another, he pursued the back into the backfield, but took a bad angle and allowed the back to get outside on him. That should have been a touchdown, but the runner slipped as he turned the corner.

You can watch the Eagles go-ahead touchdown and two-point conversion here. On the touchdown, Barnes (#98) is initially driven back at the line and although he does manage to fight off the block, it’s too late for him to be able to help prevent the runner from getting outside. On the two-pointer, he is moved off his spot by an intial double-team and then the center peels off to block the linebacker in the hole while the left guard finished Barnes off by driving him back and to the ground.

As a pass rusher, the Eagles threw a lot of quick, short passes, so he didn’t have much chance to make an impact. He did continue to get his hands up well though.

On one play the Eagles tried to cut him at the line and he avoided it to pursue downhill, showing that he had learned from that happening a few times in the previous two games.

Week Four – at Atlanta

Barnes played 28 snaps, all in the second half. He did not record any statistics.

He was blocked out of the middle to create the hole for this long touchdown run. Once again, as had been the case in each of the first three games, this happened because Barnes tried to get a quick first step so he could get outside leverage on his man, but his blocker was able to use his momentum against him to drive him out of the path of the run.

In this game, Barnes once again helped bottle up a few runs, but there were a couple of plays where he couldn’t quite get across laterally fast enough and also a screen pass where he wasn’t able to get off his block. On one fourth down stuff, he got some penetration to force the run back inside.

He didn’t contribute much as a pass rusher again, although he was doubled a lot and did disrupt a passing angle on one play.

Conclusions

With his combination of size, strength and athletic ability, Barnes is an intriguing project. While he didn’t make a series of spectacular or outstanding plays, there was plenty in terms of solid plays and positive contributions and not too many negatives.

It’s fair to say that he is susceptible to being taken out of the play on cutback runs and he doesn’t offer much as a pass rusher. Both of these issues could be fixable, though. In terms of positives, it’s not easy to move him, he – unlike Ropati Pitoitua before him – uses his 6’7″ frame well to disrupt passing lanes and I was particularly impressed with his effort levels and motor.

Barnes doesn’t quite have the ability to move laterally that Ellis and Damon Harrison have, but there was a pattern of Barnes almost blowing up the kind of plays Harrison and Ellis were routinely stuffing last year. Therefore, if Barnes can find an extra yard of quickness, whether that comes from him losing some weight, showing better technique or just reading and reacting to the play a beat faster, then you can see that the potential is there for him to develop into a similar kind of player. He might also benefit from being able to play a conventional nose tackle role with the Jets, instead of being employed as a 4-3 DT as he was with the Jaguars. He did play in both 4-3 and 3-4 defenses while at Georgia Tech.

While we should be careful not to overstate what Barnes achieved in preseason because he was going against backups all the time, that’s just a sign of where he is on his current development curve. In that regard, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that he was no less impressive as a rookie as Harrison was. However, Harrison made phenomenal strides in his second season and we should in no way consider history to be likely to repeat itself.

With Ellis and Harrison both out of contract at the end of the season (although Harrison will be a restricted free agent), Barnes might have an outside chance to make one of them expendable. With Rex Ryan and Karl Dunbar’s track record for developing linemen, you have to feel good about their chances of ironing out some of the kinks and giving Barnes a chance to continue to develop but his opportunities will be limited because he has two great players ahead of him right now.

We’ll be looking at more players throughout April.




44 comments
Pat d
Pat d

A project player that we didn't draft in the 2nd round.

a57se
a57se

Another Genius......Lucheiz Purefoy busted for Pot and Bath Salts!!!

Bent
Bent moderator

Vote now: You want me to do a BGA on Brandon Hardin or Ras-I Dowling next?  A 2012 third rounder or a 2011 second rounder?

Bent
Bent moderator

This guy has awesome initials.

a57se
a57se

Thanks Bent....I am curious, usually taller D'linemen have a lot of trouble with their pad level (Potty struggled big time with this early on), yet you didn't really mention this as an issue for Barnes.....was that because he keeps his pad level down or you just didn't want to pile on?

metjetnet
metjetnet

(miketaliaferro) Bent, this is where our respect for you & your critical abilities (and research) overrule our eyes. In each of the links you game above, Barnes got the line once (waved at the runner) and was seriously pushed around by men smaller than he on the others. 

I assume you've seen much beyond these clips. Because in these, he's got nothing. 

Makes Vlad look like Mangold.

funkymonk
funkymonk

Interesting stuff, thanks Bent!

If the coaching staff likes his development in camp / preseason this year, I could see us trading Ellis.

Bent
Bent moderator

@Hanknaples  


He was almost ready.  Almost doesn't count though.  You said so yourself.

Bent
Bent moderator

@Hanknaples  


I was comparing their preseason performance.  


Harrison had zero tackles as a rookie.  He merely held his ground on that play while someone else made the tackle.  Foster had four more 100 yard games over the rest of that season.  Your hyperbole is laughable.

Bent
Bent moderator

@Hanknaples  As noted below, Barnes actually handled double teams a lot better than most rookie DTs.


I was specifically comparing their performances in preseason.  Harrison had seven tackles, Barnes had five tackles and a pass batdown.  There was also one game where Harrison was so upset with how he played that he tweeted out an apology to Jets fans, so to pretend he had this flawless, perfect preseason is not even something Harrison himself would claim.


Yes, Harrison made one big play during the regular season, but let's not go overboard.  On third and short the Texans ran right at him and he held his ground well so the run was bottled up for no gain.  It wasn't a double team, he didn't make the tackle himself and the play wouldn't have been made without a couple of his teammates also standing their ground or getting off blocks.  A fresh Harrison came into the game and did his role within a defensive unit team play there.  Maybe Barnes has the potential to one day do the same when called upon.


What else did he do as a rookie?  Nothing.  Maybe he almost did some things, but almost doesn't count, you said so yourself.


I am not predicting Barnes becomes Harrison, just noting how far he has to go to get there.  Still, this coaching staff has done it once.

Bent
Bent moderator

@Hanknaples  Every nose tackle struggles to hold up against double teams.  The ones that can become starter level players.  Barnes was doubled constantly and yet only driven off once or twice a game.  That's actually good.  I've watched Defensive Tackles before that have been constantly driven back whenever they were doubled.  And of course you have to consider that he might have improved from year one to year two.


It was extremely rare for him to be moved by a single block and if he got playing time with the Jets, either he would be single-blocked, so would be able to stand his ground or that would free up one of the other outstanding linemen.


Oh and "Ellis has a tough time blowing up plays without his cohorts" is complete and utter nonsense and you kill your credibility with comments like that.

a57se
a57se

@Bent  

Dowling......more promise there. no?

harold
harold

@Bent


Ras I Dowling I got a chance to talk to him good dude hope he makes an impact.

Bent
Bent moderator

@a57se  


It goes without saying that this is an issue for any big lineman (offensive linemen too).  However, Barnes getting driven back wasn't a consistent issue for him and he stood up his man on a number of occasions.


I guess because he's a wideload he has a lower center of gravity so it's less of an issue than it would be for a lean guy like Potty.

Bent
Bent moderator

@metjetnet  


Yes.  Obviously NFL.com don't have many video clips of two yard runs but he played a positive role in a bunch of them too.


On those three clips, albeit negative plays, you still get a sense of who he is and where he needs to improve:


- Excellent job of getting in the backfield, just couldn't quite stop the runner.  *thisclose* to being a great play.


- Did get off his block, just not immediately, but at the end of the day it was an outside run that he probably wouldn't have affected anyway


- Got driven back by a clean initial double team that he perhaps didn't anticipate and the left guard was able to use that inertia to continue to drive him back after the center peeled off.


- Filled the B Gap, but then was unable to recover into the A Gap when the run cut up the middle as the blocker used his momentum against him - a common issue but hopefully a fixable one.


For what it's worth, Vlad was the best run blocker on the team in preseason by a mile.  In fact, he was one of the few players who was able to cleanly block Barnes by sealing him to the outside.

Simon Gribben
Simon Gribben

@funkymonk  Ellis is the real deal, no drop off when rotated.  Barnes is a box of chocolates. 

Bent
Bent moderator

For the benefit of the room, I am using Fonzie's momentum against him to drive him out of the play, thereby providing an example of Barnes' main fixable weakness.

Bent
Bent moderator

@a57se @Bent  No idea.  That's what I'll be endeavoring to find out.

a57se
a57se

@Bent @a57se 

If this guy shows some improvement this preseason, it will be tough to stash him on the practice squad........

Bent
Bent moderator

@Simon Gribben @funkymonk  I agree that Ellis is great and they shouldn't be considering trading him.  However, if I was Ellis, at the end of this year I'd consider signing a one-year deal with another team because that might be the only way he can get sufficient playing time to prove he's worthy of that one decent sized veteran deal before he is past his prime.  Signing a low level short term deal with the Jets would essentially mean he's never going to get that decent sized deal.


If the Jets know this is a possibility then maybe you couldn't rule it out completely.  However, I love Ellis and ideally would want to keep the group together.

a57se
a57se

@Bent @a57se 

I guess I shouldn't assume because of the name.......

a57se
a57se

@Bent @a57se 

to move into the bottom of the first round they'd have to trade their 2nd and 3rd round picks or both their 4th's and a 6th at a min. according to the trade value chart.......I would not like giving up those picks for one guy......

Bent
Bent moderator

@a57se @Bent  I wasn't necessarily thinking they would trade up from 18.  They might instead trade up from 49 to get another first round level talent or something.


Or maybe they pick up an extra 2015 pick at some point.

a57se
a57se

@Bent @a57se 

I seriously hope they aren't trying to make too big a jump......the first 6 picks in this draft are money.....I'd trade 5,6 and 7 if they want to trim something......those three 6th round conditional pick SUCK>>>>but they're better then nothing and they give the flexibility to trade the lower ones.

Bent
Bent moderator

@a57se @Bent  Nope, just a guess based on what I know about organizational philosophy, the issue you raised with regard to not enough roster space to accommodate 12 picks and the plan that Idzik has been following so far.

Bent
Bent moderator

@a57se @Bent  I still think Idzik will be trading up and we'll end up picking fewer (maybe significantly fewer) than 12 guys.

a57se
a57se

@Bent @a57se 

True but we also have twelve draft picks we're bringing in and we know they don't get cut......

Bent
Bent moderator

@a57se @Bent  Well they should have three spare spots this year for stashing not-quite-ready-but-high-upside guys because they won't need to do that with those three linemen (who will presumably either move into a permanent backup role or get cut loose).


If Barnes - or any other player - shows major promise in preseason, the team obviously is averse to using a roster spot for that purpose.

a57se
a57se

@Bent  

Barnes arms are almost 2" longer then Nix so that is pretty amazing actually!!


Bent
Bent moderator

@a57se @Bent  


Barnes had an ok-but-not-particularly-good 25 but Nix didn't do it at the combine.  I now see that he did it at his Pro Day and did 24 reps so again Barnes compares well.


Nix did improve his 40 time at his Pro Day but only to 5.38.  He did improve his three cone to 8.01 though.  Barnes didn't work out at his Pro Day.

Bent
Bent moderator

@a57se @Bent  FWIW Barnes' combine numbers (despite being 30 pounds heavier) compare very favorably with Nix.


  • 10 Yard Dash: 1.85  (Barnes 1.89)
  • 40 Yard Dash: 5.42  (Barnes 5.19)
  • Vertical Jump: 25½"  (Barnes 22)
  • Broad Jump: 97"  (Barnes 97)
  • 3 Cone Drill: 8.29   (Barnes 8.26)
  • 20 Yard Shuttle: 4.94   (Barnes 4.96)

a57se
a57se

@Bent

That is going to be an interesting position to watch....NT's are in demand and there really isn't much to get excited about in this draft after Nix......