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InicioSPORTSConfident Cody Barton 'Turned the Corner,' Emerging as Viable Starter For Seahawks

Confident Cody Barton ‘Turned the Corner,’ Emerging as Viable Starter For Seahawks

Unfairly used as a punching bag by many fans given the Seattle Seahawks persistent struggles defending the run this season, Cody Barton has quietly turned into a quality starter as he has acclimated to a new scheme, putting himself back in the mix to be part of the franchise’s future foundation.

RENTON, Wash. – Stepping into unfillable shoes left behind by Bobby Wagner, Cody Barton faced an unenviable situation entering the final year of his rookie contract with his first chance to be a full-time starter with the Seahawks.

While it wouldn’t have been fair to anticipate Barton, a third round pick in 2019, would suddenly become the second coming of Wagner after three years primarily playing special teams, expectations remained high at a position where Seattle has received elite play throughout coach Pete Carroll’s tenure. Even before Wagner arrived, David Hawthorne enjoyed a career year in 2011 and K.J. Wright turned in 10 fantastic seasons as a screen-busting tackle machine for the franchise.

Under the weight of those expectations, Barton didn’t get off to the best start lining up alongside Jordyn Brooks. Though he came through with a critical stop on Broncos running back Javonte Williams on a fourth quarter screen to help the Seahawks win their season opener, he struggled at times diagnosing plays, working off blocks, and making plays in coverage in the first month, playing part in coordinator Clint Hurtt opting to lean more heavily on dime sets with an extra defensive back replacing him on the field.

After playing at least 94 percent of Seattle’s defensive snaps in the first three games, Barton saw a dramatic decline in field time, logging more than 70 percent of the snaps in just one of the following six games. But as the team rattled off four straight victories in October and early November, even with a diminished snap workload, the veteran started to find his rhythm and made notable contributions in the winning streak.

Although he didn’t play much in a 19-9 victory over the Cardinals in Week 6, Barton has improved leaps and bounds over the past seven games for the Seahawks. During that span, he has racked up 44 combined tackles, a sack, two pass breakups, and two interceptions, including snapping Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady’s historic streak without a pick at 399 pass attempts in a Week 10 defeat in Munich. Last weekend, he put a dagger in the Rams by intercepting John Wolford in the final minute to seal a 27-23 road win.

While Barton has been an easy target for some fans to point a finger at given Seattle’s ongoing problems stopping opposing run games, statistics and film paint a different picture. Though he still has found himself unable to disengage from blocks more than he and his coaching staff would like and sometimes his pursuit angles can be a bit erratic, Carroll has seen a far more confident, aggressive version of the young defender in recent weeks, leading to vast improvements in his play and production in all areas.

“I think he has turned the corner in terms of confidence and what he is seeing,» Carroll said of Barton on Monday. «He is showing his commitment to downhill play, his aggressive tackling, his hitting and fitting, and is just doing stuff across the board. He just looks the most confident he has been. It helps everybody play faster when you feel like that and he’s doing that.»

Linebackers often are measured by the number of tackles they make, but while that total can tell some of the story on how well a player is performing at the position, not all tackles are created equal. Early in the season, Barton piled up tackles in bunches, but many of them were several yards downfield or after surrendering a catch in coverage and he often found himself out of place trying to find his footing in a new 3-4 defensive scheme.

But after tough outings against the Falcons, Lions, and Saints resulted in just 28 snaps against the Cardinals in Week 6, Barton started to find his groove in a reduced role. Coming off a five tackle outing in a road win over the Chargers, he stuffed the stat sheet with six tackles, including three runs stopped for three or fewer yards, a sack, and a pass breakup while helping hold the Giants to 13 points in an impressive Week 8 victory at Lumen Field.

After not playing much in a rematch with Arizona due to personnel choices against a spread passing attack, Barton emerged as one of the few bright spots in a loss to Tampa Bay. Along with intercepting Brady in the fourth quarter to set up a Geno Smith touchdown pass, he blew up Leonard Fournette on a screen for a one-yard gain that led to a missed field goal in the first quarter and two of his nine tackles stuffed opposing runners for no gain.

Even when the Raiders torched the Seahawks for nearly 600 yards of offense in Week 12, Barton turned in several impact, game-changing plays. First, he got his hand on a pass from Derek Carr down the seam to tight end Foster Moreau and the deflection landed in safety Quandre Diggs’ hands for his second interception of the game. Then in the fourth quarter, on one of his four total stops that limited opposing runners to a yard or less, he shot out of a cannon into the backfield to bring down Josh Jacobs on a 4th and 1 toss play for a turnover on downs.

Through a roller coaster of a first season as a starter, per Pro Football Focus, Barton currently ranks 49th out of 53 qualified linebackers with a 53.2 overall grade. But he has been markedly better since a rough start, improving to 36th out of 53 linebackers since Week 6 with a respectable 61.6 grade. With only two missed tackles in the past seven games, his 76.6 tackling grade ranks 10th and he also ranks in the top 15 with a 72.5 pass rushing grade.

Interestingly, while PFF hasn’t graded Barton as favorably in coverage, the former safety surrendered the fourth-lowest passer rating (65.8) at his position during that span. He’s one of only two linebackers with multiple interceptions, he ranks fifth allowing just 6.5 yards per catch, and he’s tied for second with two pass breakups, flashing a versatile skill set.

Turning only 26 years old in November and still having only 11 starts under his belt after learning behind Wagner, Wright, and Mychal Kendricks, Barton remains a young player with plenty of untapped potential to unlock. With the Seahawks in the hunt for a playoff spot and five games left to play, he will have a great opportunity to continue making progress after a sluggish start and potentially earn a second contract as part of the team’s defensive plans in 2023 and beyond.

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