This year, I've again been breaking down each of the Jets' rookies in detail and we're now looking at the undrafted free agents. Yesterday, I looked at North Carolina running back Romar Morris but now I move on to look at Penn State defensive lineman Tarow Barney. I've been conducting research and watching game footage to try and assess what he brings to the table.
The 21-year old Barney is listed as 6'1" and 306 pounds and played for Penn State for the past two seasons after being recruited as a junior college transfer from Northwest Mississippi Community College. In two seasons with the Nittany Lions, he played in 25 games with one start and recorded 16 tackles, 2.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He turned heads with an impressive performance at his pro day.
Note: Some stats from this article are exclusively provided by Pro Football Focus.
Who is Tarow Barney?
After having played just one season of football in high school, Barney attended Northwest Mississippi CC where he played in 10 games and recorded 20 tackles as a freshman and then became a full-time starter as a sophomore and piled up 36 tackles and 3.5 sacks in nine games. He was rated as a four-star JUCO recruit before committing to attend Penn State for the next two seasons.
In two years with Penn State, Barney was stuck behind two future NFL draft picks, Anthony Zettel and Austin Johnson. He registered just seven tackles as a junior, but 3.5 were for a loss, including two sacks, as he made an early impact with a strip sack against UMass.
In his senior year, Barney's playing time increased, but he still only had nine tackles (one for loss) and a half-sack. He added one fumble recovery.
Despite this low production, Barney established himself as a possible NFL prospect with a strong showing at his pro day and was signed by the Jets soon after the draft ended.
Let's move onto some more in-depth analysis of what Barney brings to the table, based on my research and film study. In the gifs featured below Barney wears number 91.
Barney's pro day performance included a 5.02 40-yard dash, 31 bench press reps and a 113" broad jump. Those numbers are excellent and his 30.5" vertical jump is also above average for his position. However his agility numbers were not as impressive as he had a poor short shuttle (4.75) and was unable to do the three cone drill.
How does that compare with the two other 300-pound rookie defensive linemen the Jets brought in though? On the whole, he was better than both, although Helva Matungulu ran a better short shuttle (4.62) and Claude Pelon had a 32.5" vertical and 33 bench press reps. Barney did achieve 34 bench press reps at a pre-season fundraising event last year though.
While all three are athletic and, based on these numbers, Barney might be the most athletic of the three, it seems like this athleticism didn't seem to show up on film quite as clearly as it did for the others. In terms of size, Barney is also a few inches shorter than both, although he was in between them in terms of his weight.
Barney was listed at 245 pounds when he left high school and 285 when he joined Penn State in 2014. He does look a lot more dynamic on his junior college film, which comes from before he bulked up to his current weight.
In two games charted, Barney played 59 snaps, most of which were as a 4-3 defensive tackle. 18 saw him shading the center and eight directly over the center as a pure nose tackle. He played on both sides of the formation.
At the NFL level, he could potentially fit as a defensive end but I wonder if he has the frame to be looked at as a nose tackle prospect. He has played some reps as an edge rusher in the past.
Playing behind two big prospects, Barney only played more than 30 snaps once in his college career, with 44 snaps in the Michigan State game at the end of the regular season. That was his only start, in a game where defensive end Carl Nassib was hurt so Zettel moved to end. All of the gifs below are from that game. As he's only had a starter's workload once, it's difficult to know how well-equipped he would be to take on a handle a bigger snap count.
Barney seems to play hard and with good effort and did make some plays deep into the fourth quarter in that Michigan State game.
While Barney didn't even reach double digits in terms of his tackle numbers in either season, he certainly made the most of the tackles he made in his senior year as only one of them wasn't a stop close to the line of scrimmage.
There were times, especially in his senior year, where Barney struggled to hold up at the point of attack. He got driven off the line badly by some double-teams. Here was an extreme example of that
He also found it difficult to cope with the higher caliber of offensive lineman he would face in the Big Ten. On this play he gets roughed up by center Jack Allen, an undrafted free agent signing for the Saints.
If you watch his junior college highlights, Barney looks like a different player, overpowering people at the point of attack, exploding to the ball and moving well laterally. He did make some positive contributions in the Michigan State game, albeit late on and against back-ups.
On the play below, he holds up well at the point of attack and manages to slip off the block just in time to stuff a runner in the hole, then also manages to help strip the ball loose and come up with the recovery.
This play sees him penetrate and then get off the block to get in on the stop, although he was helped by the fact that the runner was slowed up in traffic.
Most of the plays Barney made at Penn State made saw him bottle up a run, so he didn't show much in terms of tackling in space or pursuing across the field. From his JUCO film, you can see that he does a good job of wrapping up a ball carrier and hauling them down and that he was capable of pursuing outside runs all the way to the sideline. He was 20 pounds lighter there, though.
Barney had one missed tackle against Ohio State when he shot a gap in the backfield to blow up a jet sweep, but that play was still stuffed for a loss after the runner initially escaped from him. That was his only missed tackle in two seasons though.
On this play, Barney initially gets knocked off balance and, although he is able to get up off his knees to get into the backfield, he can't quite finish as the runner is able to change direction and get downfield.
Barney didn't have a lot of production as a pass rusher with the Nittany Lions. After his strip sack against UMass in the second quarter of a game that Penn State led 13-0 at the time, he would only have 1.5 more sacks in the next one and half seasons, along with just a handful of pressures.
When rushing the passer, Barney's skills are obviously still pretty raw. He often would get nowhere near the quarterback and, despite the strength he showed in his bench press, doesn't get much of a push.
In the Michigan State game, he had one pressure but that came as he was unblocked on a quick dump-off and otherwise was unable to beat his man.
At times, Barney will try to spin away from his blocker, but he wasn't agile enough to use this method to get a free run at the quarterback. However on one play, he span off the initial block but then followed it up with a bull rush to get a hit on the quarterback.
Two of his three sacks at junior college came as he was completely unblocked up the middle. The other was a coverage sack after a powerful bull rush that collapsed the pocket.
Barney did not bat down a pass over the past four seasons and did not drop into coverage at all while at Penn State. He did have one play in junior college where he hit the quarterback's arm and forced a bad throw.
I can't find any details of Barney making any special teams contributions and doubt it would be a major factor in his longer-term future.
Much of Barney's role at Penn State required him just to take on blocks, so it's not easy to get a handle on how sharp his instincts were. There were a few plays where he was fighting to get penetration into the backfield and perhaps located the football a beat late.
It seems that Barney was able to remain healthy throughout his college career. He did pull a hamstring at his pro day though.
It seems like the coaches were impressed with Barney in practice, although it was suggested that he perhaps doesn't realize how good he can be.
Barney was selected to be on Penn State's leadership council prior to his senior year and seems to be a popular and fun-loving character. He also won a team's Quarterback Club Award as a student-athlete deserving special recognition.
He had one penalty at Penn State, when he jumped offside on a play at the goal line against San Diego State in September.
As suggested above, I wonder if the Jets would see Barney as a development prospect at the nose tackle position. Despite his athletic numbers, he is less dynamic and doesn't have the same kind of length that Pelon and Matungulu do, so I suspect the Jets may look to bulk him up to see if he can hold up at nose.
His primary experience has been as a defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense, which the Jets would use from time to time but not necessarily as a primary set.
Current Jet Deion Barnes is a former teammate of Barney's so perhaps that will help ease the transition from Penn State's system to that of the Jets.
I'm sure what attracted the Jets to Barney was his measurables, but his film shows that he's still somewhat raw technically and doesn't yet make the best use of his strength and athleticism in practice. Maybe these are things that could be improved upon over time, which could lead to him being a good mid-to-long term prospect.
It seems Barney struggled with the jump from JUCO-level to the Big Ten, as he was not as readily able to overpower or beat an opponent using his athleticism, suggesting that he was able to get away with using his superior strength and/or athleticism at that level, but perhaps didn't have the technical skills to produce in the same fashion against more established players.
Tellingly, even in the Michigan State game, all the positive plays he made came at the end of the game when the Spartans had removed their starters from the line-up. Earlier on, he had been pushed around pretty routinely and spent a lot of time on the ground.
It will be interesting to gauge Barney's performance in camp against those of Matungulu and Pelon. I would be interested to see all three of them get on the field together, perhaps with Barney getting a look at nose tackle. There probably isn't room for any of them on the active roster, but there might be a practice squad spot or two up for grabs, so competition could be fierce.
Up next: We'll take a look at Texas A&M defensive lineman Julian Obioha. How could he fit into the Jets' plans for their front seven? Let us know in the comments who you'd like us to look at after that.