Barton eyes the snap
In many ways, Eric Barton became a forgotten man during the first couple weeks of training camp. But after head coach Eric Mangini named the veteran inside linebacker the defensive player of the game for his play against the Falcons on Friday night, reporters flocked to him this afternoon.
"It is a good thing to know you performed well," Barton said of the recognition for his four-tackle performance. "There are things I can do to get better, and I'm sure I'll do that this week and play better next Friday."
The 6'2", 245-pound Barton has impressed the coaching staff. Out of the public spotlight, the Maryland alum has made quiet progress.
"Eric has really improved on his run fits and his ability to strike the blocker," Mangini said. "That was something he focused on and we talked about in the off-season as one of his goals. He did a good job of working prior to camp, prior to OTAs, on things that were more strength-and-conditioning-related but translated into that."
Barton started 15 games last season and tallied 100 tackles in his first year in the Jets' 3-4. He shared inside responsibilities with Jonathan Vilma and both men have set their sights on an improved run defense.
"That has been a key point of emphasis for Jonathan and myself to get that down," said Barton of the fits. "We worked with Andy [Dickerson, defensive quality control coach] and [linebackers] Coach [Jim] Herrmann a lot this off-season. Those are small particular things that can help you win games."
Barton described himself as "much more comfortable" now in Year 2 of the defense. He praised an assistant defensive line coach who was quite the player in his day.
"Bryan Cox has helped me out a lot," he said. "He played the same defense and he's told me and Jon a couple of things that makes things a lot easier in what to look for. Also some things to expect when you are in certain fronts and they are in certain offenses, things like that keep you kind of a step ahead."
The Jets added David Harris to their linebacker mix in April. Harris, a second-round selection from Michigan, is a talented player whom Barton is not afraid to counsel. The nine-year vet, now in his fourth season with the Green & White, knows football is a business.
"I took it as they were trying to make the team better," he said of the pick. "David is a good player and we are a better team because of him."
"I've found that Eric has worked extremely hard, especially as the season progressed last year and training camp progressed last year, I thought he kept getting better and better," added Mangini. "That really wasn't in relationship to any new players. That was just him improving in the system and getting more familiar with that."
Vilma, now in his fourth year, and Barton have a good feel for each other on the field. Their fiery personalities mesh and the defense follows their lead.
"I think being a year together with Eric, we'd always been playing well together. And I think with the technique now in the 3-4, we're trying to play off each other, understand the little things about it, Vilma said. "I guess when he [Mangini] says we're similar, it's probably about the knowledge of the game. We both love the game, we both love to go out there and fly around. You see it when we're out there. We have fun, we're excited, we slap hands, we're teammates, the whole nine."
Barton describes the defense in terms of the unit taking precedence over individual stats. He is a good communicator and had become the ultimate pace-setter at practice.
"I try to because you never are going to get these practices back," he said. "Every day you have to go out there and work. If you lose a day because of focus or an absence of concentration, you don't get to get it back. It's just a lost day."
And if you hear chirping out here on the training camp fields, No. 50 is probably involved. He is an emotional catalyst who can get guys going on either side of the ball.
"It makes it fun, too," he said of the talk. "It doesn't make it seem like you're out here this long, so that's part of it as well."
In more ways than one, EB is making a lot of noise and people are listening.