Barton eyes the snap
The recovery was complete for Eric Barton when the Jets' veteran outside linebacker doused head coach Eric Mangini with Gatorade on a cold New Year's Eve at the Meadowlands. A year after suffering a torn left triceps, Barton helped the Jets celebrate a return to the postseason.
Barton, whose 125 tackles paced the Jets in 2004, played only four games for the club in '05. He was injured in a Monday night contest against the Atlanta Falcons and was subsequently placed on injured reserve. Following surgery and a successful rehabilitation, Barton racked up 37 tackles during last season's first quarter. Barton's impressive start came on the heels of a philosophical shift defensive shift from a 4-3 look to a 3-4 scheme.
"It's football, man," Barton said when asked about the new defense. "You have to get off blocks, run to the ball and make tackles."
No stranger to the 3-4, Barton played in a similar scheme with the Raiders from 1999-2003. He averaged 128 tackles per season the final two years he was with the Silver & Black.
"You still have to react," he said in the fall of the 3-4. "Once the ball is snapped, you have to react and make plays, just like any other defense."
On a young squad, the 29-year-old Barton was a steady defensive performer on the field while starting 15 regular season games. His 4.5 sacks were the second-highest total of his career and he also finished second on the team with 100 tackles. But Barton's veteran presence helped in the locker room as well. When the Jets suffered a particularly tough loss at Jacksonville and fell to 2-3, Barton expressed confidence in the way his team would respond.
"I know what kind of guys we have in here," he told reporters. "I know how we will go to work this week. I know the mindset of this team. It is not a question of how we are going to prepare this week. We just have to see if we will execute and if we do we will be okay."
And the Green & White would be okay. They won eight of their final 11 games to earn a playoff berth in Mangini's first season. During the regular season finale against Oakland with everything on the line, Barton registered a strip-sack of Aaron Brooks in the fourth quarter and the Jets cruised to a 20-point victory. Moments later, Barton combined with Jonathan Vilma for a memorable Gatorade dump.
"It was a perfect one," Barton said. "A lot of guys hit the coach with the thing and don't get a lot of the water and Gatorade on him."
In the Jets' only postseason contest, the relentless was credited with eight tackles and a half of a sack.