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A closer look at Cody Barton

Los Angeles Rams v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Jane Gershovich/Getty Images

There’s been a lot of discussion about ongoing offseason needs in Washington over the past few months, and the lion’s share of that conversation has centered around two position groups: offensive line and linebacker. This piece is intended to extend the dialogue around the latter unit.

Despite a few years of exposure to Ron Rivera and Jack Del Rio’s secondary-heavy defense, many Commanders’ fans still think of a proper defensive roster as including at least three starting-caliber linebackers (i.e., WILL, MIKE, and SAM) as well as 2-3 solid depth pieces, in case of injury to one of the starters.

The reality is, Washington runs a base 4-2-5 defense with a “big nickel” - a hybrid of a linebacker and safety - taking the place of a linebacker in a traditional 4-3 front, so it only needs two starting LBs, and 2 or 3 more depth pieces, who end up largely being special teams contributors.

This is a look at the team’s LB2, Cody Barton, who takes over with the departure of Cole Holcomb to Pittsburgh this offseason.


Cody Barton was a third round selection by the Seattle Seahawks in the 2019 draft. He had a productive college career, where he led the University of Utah with 116 tackles as a senior, and was honorable mention All PAC-12.

For his first three seasons in Seattle, Barton was largely a special teamer, playing on around 70% of snaps, and only contributed lightly on defense, averaging around 13% of defensive snaps per year. For comparison, that’s in the range of what David Mayo was averaging in Washington before Cole Holcomb went down last year.

In 2022, however, Barton finally got his shot on defense, starting 11 games, and playing 77% of defensive snaps (his ST snap percentage dropped to 58%).

And the results weren’t bad at all. Barton had a career year, after struggling a bit to kick off the season.

Through a roller coaster of a first season as a starter, per Pro Football Focus, Barton currently ranks 49th out of 53 qualified linebackers with a 53.2 overall grade. But he has been markedly better since a rough start, improving to 36th out of 53 linebackers since Week 6 with a respectable 61.6 grade. With only two missed tackles in the past seven games, his 76.6 tackling grade ranks 10th and he also ranks in the top 15 with a 72.5 pass rushing grade.

Interestingly, while PFF hasn’t graded Barton as favorably in coverage, the former safety surrendered the fourth-lowest passer rating (65.8) at his position during that span. He’s one of only two linebackers with multiple interceptions, he ranks fifth allowing just 6.5 yards per catch, and he’s tied for second with two pass breakups, flashing a versatile skill set.

Barton is an elite athlete, like Cole Holcomb before him.

That said, while Barton played well last year, he was judged to a pretty high standard - that of departed All-Pro linebacker, Bobby Wagner.

Barton is having a career year, as he has more combined tackles in the 2022 season so far (129) than he did in his career up to this point (95 from 2019-2021), according to Pro Football Focus. But he also has 8 missed tackles on the season and the second worst miss rate of his career (6.3%) , according to Pro Football Focus. This isn’t awful, and it is better than Jordyn Brooks, who PFF credits with 17 missed tackles. But it also isn’t as good as former Seahawks Bobby Wagner, who boasts a 3.1% miss rate with 4 totals missed tackles. To be fair, though, I don’t think that anybody expected that there wouldn’t be a noticeable drop off going from a Hall of Fame linebacker to Brooks and Barton.

Barton’s 2022 season, at least statistically, was very comparable to Cole Holcomb’s last full season, in 2021. Holcomb started a few more games (16 vs. 11) putting up virtually the same number of tackles (142 vs. 136) and interceptions (both had 2), while Barton had more tackles for a loss (4 vs. 2) and sacks (2 vs. 1).

On the upswing, in terms of playing experience, and with a far better defensive line in Washington than he had in Seattle, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Barton have a very good year in DC this season. Essentially on a 1-year, prove-it deal, Barton has everything to play for, and one of the likely top defenses in the league to do it within.


Who do you think will have a better season this year?

This poll is closed

  • 32%
    Cole Holcomb
    (393 votes)
  • 67%
    Cody Barton
    (822 votes)
1215 votes total Vote Now