Eagles

1st-rounder Derek Barnett making Eagles look smart

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1st-rounder Derek Barnett making Eagles look smart

After blocking a field goal and recovering it on Sunday, Derek Barnett was probably a little too hard on himself. 

He thinks he should have scored. 

"It was all green grass in front of me," Barnett said. "But next time."

Barnett ended up going eight yards after he scooped up the loose ball. He got it after Jalen Mills and Malcolm Jenkins failed to corral it.  

Seconds earlier, Barnett sliced through the 49ers' line to get both paws on the 27-yard field goal attempt off the foot of veteran Robbie Gould in the fourth quarter. Barnett said he was confident he was going to block the ball once the call was made. It was the first field goal block of his football career. It was also the first time Gould has ever missed a field goal inside 30 yards — he was previously 93 for 93.

The Eagles scored on the ensuing drive and beat the 49ers 33-10. 

Aside from special teams, Barnett is starting to look like the guy the Eagles hoped they were getting when they drafted 14th overall in the spring. 

After a two-sack game last week, Barnett chipped in on Sunday with two tackles, two QB hits and a tackle for loss that came against former Pro Bowler Joe Staley. 

"I feel a lot more comfortable," Barnett said. "I feel like the game is slowing down for me now. I am just focusing on every play and not doing too much with my job. If I do my job and focus on my assignments, the plays will come to me. At first, a lot of the old heads told me I was doing well, to be patient, keep on working, it's gonna come. Now it is starting to come because I am doing the techniques they are teaching us and everything will fall into place."

On that tackle for a loss against Staley, Barnett pretty much threw the 6-foot-5, 315-pound left tackle to the ground before taking down Carlos Hyde for a one-yard loss in the second quarter. 

It's a play he might not have made earlier in the season. One of the biggest adjustments he's been trying to make since arriving in the NFL is being more powerful in his rushes and "not trying to finesse everything." He's learned that relying on his speed rush like he did in college won't be enough in the NFL. Switching up his rushes has been Barnett's primary focus so far during his rookie season. 

Veteran Chris Long has been on the second unit with Barnett all season. And he doesn't think the rookie's solid play is anything new. 

"I thought he had things figured out early in the year," Long said. "He went out and had two sacks last week so everybody says, 'Oh, now he's a different player.' He's been winning rushes all year. It goes back to the sacks thing. That kid's been playing well all year. I'm glad it's coming to fruition for him statistically so people on the outside can see what a good player he is and what he's gonna be. So I'm excited for him."

Barnett didn't pick up his first NFL sack until he was credited with half of one against Carolina a few weeks ago. He didn't get his first solo sack until last week against Washington. Before then he showed flashes, but it seems like he's becoming more and more consistent. 

Because of Long and Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry, it went kind of unnoticed for weeks that Barnett hadn't gotten his first sack. It seems like thanks to the play of the starters in front of him, there's less pressure on Barnett than some other first-round picks. 

That's now how Barnett sees it. 

"I wouldn't say it takes the pressure off of me," he said. "I put pressure on myself. But having those guys in front of me, I get to learn a lot. Vinny and BG, they're two good defensive ends, solid. They can rush the passer and they can stop the run. In practice, even if I'm not in that moment, or in games, I can watch those two guys to see what they're doing. If they make a mistake, I can learn from their mistakes so I won't make the same mistakes as them. It's been a blessing for me to come in and be in a position ... we have a lot of guys who have played a lot of football in front of me. I'm just learning a lot more. I feel like I'm learning the game a lot faster."

Eagles Stay or Go — A few easy choices for once

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Eagles Stay or Go — A few easy choices for once

Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro continue our series examining the future of the world champion Eagles.

Mack Hollins
Roob: Hollins wasn't really a factor later in the season, once Torrey Smith got going, but he did show early in the year what kind of player he can be, notably with that 64-yard TD catch in the second Redskins game. Depending on what the Eagles do about Smith, Hollins should be either the Eagles' third or fourth receiver this fall. Either way, he'll be here, and I expect him to make a big jump in Year 2.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Hollins caught just 16 passes as a rookie and it seemed like he just never started producing the way he seems capable of. Even when Smith struggled, Hollins got more playing time and didn't produce. The good news is he's still young and plays a role on special teams. The Eagles will probably bolster their receiving corps in some way, but if they don't, Hollins will have a shot at starting if Smith is gone next season. 

Verdict: STAYS

Alshon Jeffery
Roob: Jeffery really played better than his stats this year. He made every big catch, caught every big third-down pass, made huge plays in the end zone. Jeffery was a star receiver without a star receiver's stats. His unselfish attitude carried over to the rest of the receivers and throughout the roster. And he did it all with a rotator cuff injury that required post-season surgery. Can't wait to see what Alshon can do healthy.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Jeffery didn't put up eye-popping numbers during the regular season, but if you needed any proof he's a No. 1 receiver, go back and watch Super Bowl LII, when he made that ridiculous catch in the end zone for a huge touchdown. The good thing about Jeffery is he really doesn't care at all about his numbers. There are a lot of diva receivers in the NFL, but Jeffery clearly isn't one of them. All he cared about last year was hoisting the Lombardi Trophy and he certainly helped get the Eagles there. 

Verdict: STAYS

Malcolm Jenkins
Roob: Jenkins has so many roles on and off the field -- community activist, NFLPA organizer, locker room leader -- it's easy to forget just how good a player he is. Jenkins has been here four years and has had four very solid, very consistent, very productive seasons. He made his second Pro Bowl this year and joined Bill Bradley (3) and Dawk (7) as only the third Eagles safety since 1960 to make multiple Pro Bowls. Jenkins is signed to a cap-friendly deal through 2020 and should be an Eagle for many years to come.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: As important as Jenkins is to the Eagles as a safety and defensive back, you could make a legitimate argument that he's even more important to the team as a leader and man. There's a reason he became the guy to follow up Doug Pederson's postgame speeches. He isn't just the leader of the defense; he's the leader of the entire team. And on the field, he's still playing at a really high, Pro Bowl caliber, level. He's 30 now but is still signed through 2020 and maybe outside of Fletcher Cox is the Eagles' most important defensive player. 

Verdict: STAYS

Eagles Stay or Go — 2 young linebackers

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Eagles Stay or Go — 2 young linebackers

Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro continue our series examining the future of the world champion Eagles.

Darrell Greene
Roob: The Hall of Fame cornerback is now 58 years old and 21 years removed from his last Pro Bowl season with the Redskins. Oh wait … wrong Darrell Green. This is Darrell GREENE, and he's a 6-foot-3, 320-pound guard out of San Diego State who's been on the Eagles' practice squad most of the last two years. The Eagles liked Greene enough to keep him around the last couple years, and unless they see something in Chance Warmack that I missed, Greene has a chance to stick around as a young O-line prospect.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Greene has been around now for the last two seasons. He was without a team for most of 2017; the Eagles didn't bring him back to the practice squad until December. The offensive guard had some real potential coming out of San Diego State, and the Eagles paid him a lot of guaranteed money to sign as an undrafted free agent before 2016. But he's never really impressed them enough to stick around for good. 

Verdict: GOES

Jordan Hicks
Roob: With Hicks, it's always about durability, not ability. Hicks has played more than half a season only once in his three NFL seasons, and since he's under contract for 2018 with a modest $2.068 million cap figure, he's obviously not going anywhere. The question is what the Eagles do with him after 2018 when he's due to become a free agent. Hicks can play. We all know that. He needs to prove this year that he can stay healthy in order to get a big-money deal a year from now.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Losing Hicks was a problem in 2017 and his absence started showing up late in the season. He's a big-time playmaker. It's a shame he got hurt last year because if he didn't, he'd be in line for a payday. For now, he'll be back in the final year of his four-year rookie contract until he can prove he's the same player he was pre-injury. 

Verdict: STAYS

Kamu Grugier-Hill
Roob: Grugier-Hill must be Howie Roseman's dream. He's signed at the minimum through 2019 but is an awfully valuable member of the roster — a reserve linebacker and emergency kicker and maybe the team's best special teamer. Kamu's not going anywhere.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: He really doesn't play at all as a linebacker, but Grugier-Hill has become one of the best special teams players in the NFL and had a real chance to be named a Pro Bowler in 2017. He led the team in special teams tackles with 19 last season. He's still young, cheap and is a big part of Dave Fipp's group. 

Verdict: STAYS