Ed Thompson: Talk about the physical and the mental challenges you’ve been tackling over the past few weeks. Are you happy with your progress so far in both of those areas?
Connor Barwin: I think there have been both physical and mental challenges, but I think I’m a better player than I was three weeks ago when I started camp. That’s the goal obviously, to be better than when you started.
Thompson: Where are you seeing the most progress?
Barwin: I think on run plays I’ve gotten better. And as a pass rusher, I think I’ve added some different moves and locked in on a couple of moves that I need to work on.
Thompson: I know you’ve connected with Mario Williams. Talk about what you’ve learned from him and what you admire about how he approaches the defensive end position.
Barwin: I’ve learned a lot from him. He’s helped me work on my get-off. And then, the way he carries himself. He’s a guy that’s in great shape and practices hard every day. You can see why he is a Pro-Bowler and why he is so productive.
Thompson: You’ve applied good pass pressure in your first two games. You got to the Chiefs’ Brodie Croyle and the Saints’ Joey Harrington. Talk about the plays and why you were successful getting to those guys.
Barwin: Getting to Croyle, I just made a nice little spin move. And it was fun for me, being from Detroit, to get a sack against Joey Harrington. That was just a stunt that I made with Shaun Cody.
Barwin has the confidence and drive to make an impact during his rookie campaign.
AP Photo/David J. Phillip
Thompson: Next Monday night you’ll get your first look at Brett Favre from field level. Will you be lobbying the coaches to give you at least one play while he’s in there so you can see if you can get a hold of him?
Barwin: Yes, I definitely will. Hopefully, I can get in and get some pressure on Brett Favre. That would be a highlight in my career to get a chance to sack Brett Favre. And I don’t know if I’ll ever have another chance to do it.
Thompson: You were rooming with former USC linebacker Brian Cushing when he got injured. I know from talking with him before the NFL Draft that he’s got a huge competitive streak and high expectations for himself, just like you. Did that make him tougher to live with or have you been able to help keep him up?
Barwin: Yea, it was tougher to live with him, but only because he had to get up so early to do so much treatment. Other than that, not at all. He’s been fine. I think he handles his injury maturely. He hasn’t really changed or gotten all emotional or anything. I think he knows he’s going to be fine. He just has to take a couple weeks off to rehab his knee.
Thompson: You got to see Texans running back Steve Slaton in action at West Virginia since you’re also a former Big East Conference player. As you’ve watched him working out as an NFL player, is he the same guy you remember or are you seeing anything different from him?
Barwin: Well, it’s funny because I remember playing against him, but I wasn’t really playing against him because I was on offense when he was at West Virginia. Running backs have to have good vision, and I think that was something that made him special in college. He would just hit creases and would be gone out of nowhere. So I think that kind of vision he has probably carried over. And that, along with his speed and durability, is what allowed him to be so good his rookie year. But you remember a guy that really killed you so bad in college. It’s kind of a good feeling to know he’s finally on your team.
Thompson: While talking about you earlier this month, your head coach, Gary Kubiak, said, “He's strong and cat-quick, and it's up to us to put him in the right spots.” At this point, where do you think those “right spots” are that will help you have a big impact on the success of this team in 2009?
Barwin: Well, hopefully it will be playing on the other side of Mario Williams right away in passing downs from second-and-long or third-down situations. I think I can do that right now. But obviously, I want to continue to work on my all-around game and be a guy that can play on first downs and be a three-down player.
Barwin uses his athleticism to block a pass during training camp.
AP Photo/David J. Phillip
Thompson: How’s the adjustment to special teams work in the pros? I know you always enjoyed that at the college level.
Barwin: It’s going good. I’m excited to get to the regular season and find out which ones I’m really going to be on. The preseason has been good. I’ve been doing punt and kickoff returns. I think I’ve gotten better. I think kickoff returns are one of the hardest plays in football, so if you can do that, you can play almost any special teams.
Thompson: You certainly grabbed the attention of Houston fans during training camp. I saw a fan state in a blog comment that he thinks you’re going to be the next Jared Allen, a player you’ll also be seeing on Monday night. He’s a couple of inches taller and about 15 pounds heavier, but has anyone ever made that comparison before? And have you watched him much in the past as you were learning the defensive end position?
Barwin: Honestly, I haven’t watched that much of him, but I’ve heard the comparison through the draft process and that’s obviously an amazing, great comparison to have. I think he is leading the league in sack totals in the last 4 or 5 years. If he plays on Monday night, I’ll definitely be paying attention to what he is doing.
Thompson: What are you going to be doing in terms of weight? I know you are 6’4” and you were around 255. Is that going to be a good weight for you at the pro level, or are you going to try to put on a little more weight? What’s the plan?
Barwin: The plan is to stay right around 255. I think that’s where I play the fastest, and speed is something I need to take advantage of. So I’m going to stay at 255.
Thompson: I know the team was disappointed about how the defense struggled to stop the run last week against New Orleans. What has the defense been doing since that game, especially since you have Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor coming to town?
Barwin: Well, we’ve just tried to clean up some of the mistakes that were made in the game. Tried to sound up some of the MAs (missed assignments) and things like that. As far as the defensive line goes, we worked on a lot of cutting, so hopefully that will fix up some of those cut-back runs.
Thompson: Size up the NFL experience for Connor Barwin so far. Is it about what you expected in both the work and fun categories?
Barwin: Yeah, it has been about what I expected. It’s been fun, but it’s been a lot of work so far. Training camp is the time when you put in all the work, and that’s what it’s been so far.
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A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's player interviews and NFL features are published across the Scout.com network and at FOXSports.com.