The game was tied and late in the first half, Baltimore faced second and 15 near midfield. Washington knew the Ravens would be passing and sent in a fifth defensive back. Sure enough, the Ravens lined up in shotgun formation, and when the ball was snapped, the nickel back came sprinting from the edge.
Kevin Barnes flew at quarterback Joe Flacco, notching the sack and forcing the Ravens into third and 22. For the Redskins, both Barnes and the nickel blitz have shown a lot of promise this preseason.
The sack was Barnes’s second in three games. He was also credited with four tackles in Thursday’s 34-31 loss at Balitmore, including one for a loss, and a quarterback hit.
“Just making the most of the opportunities I’ve been given,” Barnes said following the game. “That starting unit, I want to stay out there. My number’s called, I go out there and do the best I can do.”
While coaches are always weary of showing too much during the preseason, Jim Haslett hasn’t been especially shy about sending corners and safeties after the quarterback. Barnes said the beefed-up defensive line opens a huge window for the nickel blitz. Offenses have to contend with all three defensive linemen in the middle and can’t put all of their focus on the edges.
“Guys can’t double-team [Brian] Orakpo and usually I’m blitzing from Orakpo’s side a lot of times,” Barnes said. “He’s taking up two blockers, the safeties going off, so it frees me up. I’m going in untouched for the most part.”
The Redskins sacked Flacco three times Thursday night. Barnes said he could tell early that Flacco was feeling pressure and he was eager to take advantage of it.
“I wanted them to call it a lot earlier,” he said of the blitz. “My defensive line — we had pressured the quarterback pretty good. Just wanted to give it a little bit more gas and put a little more pressure on him. He called it, and I made the play.”
Entering his third season, Barnes is hoping to be more of an impact player this year. With Phillip Buchanon expected to start the season under suspension, Barnes should have ample opportunity. With DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson expected to line up outside, Barnes is getting pretty comfortable playing the nickel.
“Nickel is a lot harder, but, I mean, if you can play nickel, you can play anything,” Barnes said. “Last year, I played every position in our secondary, so I’m comfortable wherever.”