Described as a project by countless media outlets over the course of draft season in 2015, Barnes, thus far in his career, has done nothing to prove the accusers wrong. Making the Saints’ roster as an undrafted free agent was notable, but he failed to assure himself a second chance, and ever since, he’s spent his career searching for another opportunity.
On the surface, it might seem like Washington is one of the worst places to be searching. But Barnes has two circumstances on his side in D.C., even if all the others are mounting against him. He perfectly fits the team’s scheme as a 3-4 end with the ability to shift inside in nickel, and he’ll finally be paired with a position coach who might be able to unlock his talents.
Unlocking one’s talents is always the key when working with projects, and Barnes has undeniable talent. At 6-foot-4, 284, Barnes has very good size and proportional length, and he’s an above-average functional athlete for his size. He ran a 4.80 at the NFL Combine in 2015, suggesting that he has the explosive ability to be disruptive, if he can reach full his potential.
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Barnes’ traits, unfortunately, seem to be his greatest strengths, and even traits, without polish and proper coaching, are useless to both player and team. Barnes, for all his positive traits, has failed to latch on, despite multiple opportunities from teams who were hurting on the defensive line at the time of Barnes’ respective signings.
The Washington Redskins aren’t hurting on the line; Far from it, in fact. But this could be Barnes’ last chance. He’ll be 27 years old in November, and he hasn’t yet had a confluence of adequate coaching and scheme fit as perfect as this in his three-year career. He has that in Washington. Jim Tomsula is known for his ability to harness player traits and help players reach their full potential. He did this recently with Matt Ioannidis and Anthony Lanier.
Tomsula has a lot to work with in Tavaris Barnes. And although Barnes’ career trajectory suggests that he hasn’t made much progress, in terms of adding to his technique and his arsenal of pass rush moves, his natural athleticism and his good speed-size combination gives Tomsula a baseline on which he can develop something. To summarize it all in one word, Barnes has potential. But he’s running out of time to work toward it.