Late addition Derek Barnett is making waves on Texans defensive line

The Houston Texans made a seemingly innocuous move seven weeks ago when they claimed former Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Derek Barnett off waivers.

Barnett had played just 99 defensive snaps, with only three combined tackles, for the Eagles before he joined Houston. The decision to bring the seven-year vet was, for all intents and purposes, purely a depth move for what was already a stout defensive front for the Texans.

But after seven total games, Barnett has proved to be one of the most useful players on a defensive line that ended up having a lot of injuries in the second half of the year. He tallied his first sack in Week 13 when edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. couldn’t play and then 1.5 sacks two weeks later when fellow pass rusher Jonathan Greenard missed time.

Barnett followed up solid outings with a big wild-card playoff game against the Cleveland Browns, recording one sack. His pressure on quarterback Joe Flacco forced what ended up being the first of Houston’s two second-half pick-sixes. He finished with the fourth-highest pass-rush win rate among defensive linemen during wild-card weekend, per ESPN, despite playing in just 47 snaps.

That play and performance by Barnett capped off a sensational stretch for the former Eagles first-round pick. Since Week 14, Barnett has a 20.9% pass rush win rate, a 17.1% pressure rate and an 84.6 pass rush grade, according to Pro Football Focus. He also has an 83.1 run defense grade with seven tackles for a loss against the run and three run stops, per PFF.

This is a testament to what head coach DeMeco Ryans and defensive coordinator Matt Burke have been able to do all year. They took a guy without a role on another team and added him to their stable of quality lineman. It’s what they did when they added defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins to the mix as well.

What’s more is Barnett brings a level of veteran postseason experience to the youthful Texans defense.

Barnett had played in five other postseason games before he came to Houston, including action in Philadelphia’s Super Bowl win over the New England Patriots during the 2017 season. He could have had even more playoff action if he hadn’t suffered a serious shoulder injury in 2018 and a torn ACL in Week 1 of this past season when the Eagles reached the Super Bowl again.

Barnett and company now hit the road to face the top-ranked Baltimore Ravens with MVP candidate Lamar Jackson under center. It’s a daunting matchup on paper – especially after the Texans’ blowout loss to the Ravens in Week 1 – but the defense still played well, especially against Jackson.

Now with a fully healthy and completed coalesced defensive front with Barnett in tow, the Texans may have a better shot at defending both the pass and the run in Baltimore. Especially with the duo of Anderson Jr. and Greenard on the edge. And with Derek Stingley playing lockdown defense in the secondary, anything is on the tackle for the upstart Texans.

They just need to make sure quarterback C.J. Stroud keeps playing his best football if Houston wants a crack at the AFC title at the end of the January.

Story originally appeared on Texans Wire