CONNOR BARWIN learned he was NFC defensive player of the month for November from fellow linebacker DeMeco Ryans yesterday, in the NovaCare weight room. That was fitting, because Ryans and Barwin were teammates in Houston the last time Barwin won a player-of-the-month award, for the AFC, in 2011.
Barwin had six sacks in November. His 12 1/2 for the season lead the Eagles and are tied for second in the NFL with Baltimore's Elvis Dumervil, behind Kansas City's Justin Houston (16).
"I was surprised," Barwin said. "It's pretty cool. I think it's good to get [the recognition] for our defense. I think whenever you start winning awards, it speaks for the group."
"The one thing about Connor is, he truly just cares about the success of the defense," coach Chip Kelly said yesterday, in his final media session before Sunday's meeting with the Seattle Seahawks. "He'll be the first to tell you that some of his sacks were the result of maybe Fletcher Cox stunting out, taking up two blockers, and he's coming off of it in a twist game. But also, we'll do the same exact thing [with Barwin, allowing someone else to go free]. That and the fact that Billy [Davis, the defensive coordinator], can move him around and put him in a lot of different spots, I think, puts him in situations where he can make plays."
Pro Football Focus credits Barwin with 25 hurries and five batted passes this season, the latter figure tying him for the lead among 3-4 outside linebackers with Green Bay's Clay Matthews.
The Eagles haven't had a defensive player of the month since Brian Dawkins last won, for December 2008. Barwin's award symbolizes how far the unit has come under Davis; when this season began, it was hard to project any Eagles defender as a strong Pro Bowl candidate, but now, Barwin certainly should make it, Cox deserves to go, safety Malcolm Jenkins has played well enough to merit strong consideration, and inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks would be in line if he hadn't missed four games with a calf injury.
The zone-read secret
The Seahawks run a fair amount of zone-read plays, something the Eagles did here and there to solid effect against the Cowboys. A lot of NFL people think that if you run zone read, you'll get your QB hurt; that is what Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was talking about last year before the Eagles played Arizona, when Arians called it a "college offense."
The idea is for the quarterback to read the end, obviously, and to keep the ball every now and then if the end doesn't honor the run possibility. But neither Chip Kelly nor Seattle coach Pete Carroll would be looking for the QB to keep it more than every once in a great while - despite the fact that Carroll has Russell Wilson, one of the league's most athletic quarterbacks.
"I never really try to run the ball," said Wilson, 5-11, 206, who has 679 yards on 91 carries, most of them unintentional, when pass plays break down. He spoke on a conference call this week with Philadelphia-area reporters. "I'm trying to hand the ball off, 100 percent of the time, to Marshawn Lynch. If for some reason, there's nobody out there, I take it . . . I'm not trying to bang into a whole bunch of guys; I'm trying to get down and make the smart play . . . Really, honestly, I'm not a runner."
Kelly noted yesterday that Wilson "doesn't put himself in harm's way."
"He's not looking to run people over," Kelly said. "He's looking to literally go first down, touchdown, get down . . . I think that's part of what makes him - he's got such poise and he's such a great decision-maker - that's what makes him so dangerous . . . He's really smart, and I think he understands what he can do."
Kelly recalled trying to get Michael Vick to embrace a similar mentality, how he was horrified, in Kelly's first regular-season game, at Washington, to see LeSean McCoy cut back and Vick take off in front of him as a lead blocker.
"I'm, like, 'No, Mike. I don't need you to lead block!' . . . But that's also one of the things that made Mike such a great player, is that he was so competitive, that he wanted to win every snap he was out there," Kelly said.
Carroll, asked about the read option's NFL viability, said: "It's going to be around as long as you have quarterbacks who don't get hit. Our quarterback is very good at not taking shots."
Chip Kelly congratulated Colorado State's Jim McElwain, a Kelly acquaintance who got the Florida job. A report erroneously had said the Gators planned to contact Kelly, and touched off a flurry of speculation.
"I don't think our pro-style offense would work in college," Kelly joked, recycling a joke originally made on Twitter by Philly.com's Justin Klugh.
In the same vein, Kelly said that although his parents once lived in Fort Collins, he is not a candidate at Colorado State.
Cody Parkey said he suffered his groin pull warming up for the Tennessee game, the day he kicked five field goals. Parkey, a rookie who has never played such a long season, acknowledged some fatigue, but said the extra rest from not having played since Thanksgiving is helping. He said he expects to be at full strength Sunday . . . The Eagles are aware of the playoff seeding and credibility stakes this game holds. "We want to be relevant, because we are," linebacker Mychal Kendricks said.