Derek Barnett has advantage most rookies don't

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Derek Barnett has advantage most rookies don't

A lot of NFL first-round picks are expected to show up on Day 1 and not only start but also become top contributors for their teams. 

Derek Barnett hasn't been met with those same expectations. 

While Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry have remained the Eagles' starters at defensive end — both have played at an extremely high level this season — Barnett has been able to rotate in and learn from them and the rest of his talented new teammates. 

It's a pretty good position for the rookie to be in. 

"We really never talked about it, to be honest with you," defensive line coach Chris Wilson said this week. "What he has done, these guys have really brought him under their wings. Guys like Fletcher (Cox), guys like Chris (Long). 

"And [Barnett is] a guy who you really want to help because he's hungry to learn and be a great player. He spends the time and effort to come in and these guys like that. They like being big brother and showing the tools and the tips that can help him. It's been fun to do that."

Having solid players in front of Barnett and being a part of what has become a dominant defense has certainly helped the rookie. There's no question about it. 

But Wilson didn't want the advantageous situation to take credit for Barnett's growing success. 

The rookie deserves credit of his own. 

 "It hasn't been, 'Hey let's put the rookie out there to put him out there,'" Wilson said. "He's been a productive player since we got him in here. He was productive in the preseason. He's beginning to be a really productive guy during the regular season. I have to give him credit as much as anything; he puts the work in." 

Barnett has played 261 of 578 possible snaps (45 percent) this season and has been on the field in some crucial situations. The coaching staff trusts him. 

When asked for the area in which Barnett has improved the most, Wilson didn't hesitate to say "in the run game." Wilson said that aspect can be difficult for a rookie because of the physicality at the NFL level. 

Barnett has been good against the run this season. He's had a chance to watch and learn from Graham and Curry, who are both also pretty stout against the run. That's helped. 

"Absolutely," Wilson said. "It's always good to see it in person and actually be able to physically touch it and watch these guys. The drill work, see how they work the drill work, to see how they go in and study the tape of the run game and things to look for in the run game. That's been big for us. He's been able to sit down with those guys and say 'OK, in this set, this is what we see and this is why we see it this way.' And that always benefits a young guy."

While Barnett has performed well against the run all year, his pass rush is starting to really come on. He has just 2½ sacks but has been getting more consistent pressure as the season has progressed. 

The 21-year-old rookie is looking more comfortable on the field with each game, but he's been comfortable in the defensive line meeting room from the beginning. 

Wilson said his meeting room is open and honest by design. Wilson cited an old saying: "You can't heal what you won't reveal."

"Derek's a very open guy," Wilson said. "It's like anything; it's the culture in the room. If you have something that you need to say, say it. You might get hammered for it, but you've got the freedom to give your opinion, that you're a part of the solution. Once he found that out, he was good and he knew to ask the right questions. That was the biggest thing I learned from this guy."

Best of NFL: Cowboys offense sputters again in loss to Chargers

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Best of NFL: Cowboys offense sputters again in loss to Chargers

ARLINGTON, Texas — Philip Rivers threw for 434 yards and three touchdowns in his first Thanksgiving game in his 14th season and the Los Angeles Chargers beat the fading Dallas Cowboys 28-6 on Thursday.

Desmond King returned an interception 90 yards for the punctuating touchdown as the Chargers (5-6) moved within 1 1/2 games of AFC West-leading Kansas City after starting 0-4 while the Chiefs won their first five.

The defending NFC East champion Cowboys (5-6) lost their third straight by at least 20 points, all without star running back Ezekiel Elliott, in a damaging defeat for their fading playoff hopes.

Dallas, playing its 50th Thanksgiving game, finally ended a touchdown drought at a team-record 10 quarters on Rod Smith's 2-yard run early in the fourth quarter.

Keenan Allen had a career-high 172 yards on 11 catches with a touchdown, giving him 23 grabs for 331 yards and three scores in the past two games (see full recap).

Vikings beat Lions, stay on Eagles' heels
DETROIT — Case Keenum threw for two touchdowns and ran for a score all in the first half to give the Minnesota Vikings a double-digit lead and they went on to beat the Detroit Lions 30-23 Thursday.

The Vikings (9-2) took a huge step toward winning the NFC North, taking a three-game lead over the second-place Lions.

Detroit (6-5) made mistakes in every phase of the game and Minnesota took advantage.

Keenum was 21 of 30 for 282 yards with both TD passes to Kyle Rudolph that gave the Vikings a 20-3 lead late in the second quarter.

The Lions rallied to pull within four points early in the fourth quarter on Matthew Stafford's second TD pass to Marvin Jones.

Xavier Rhodes ended Detroit's comeback hopes with an interception at the Detroit 37 late in the game (see full recap). 

Redskins beat Giants in turkey of a Thanksgiving game
LANDOVER, Md. — Kirk Cousins threw two touchdown passes to compensate for a pick-6, and the Washington Redskins beat the New York Giants 20-10 on Thursday night on a drab field in a drab game between two injury-depleted teams that did not look ready for prime time.

The first half, in particular, was devoid of highlights: The NFC East rivals combined for nine punts and only six points.

But Cousins led Washington (5-6) on two TD drives in the second half, connecting with Jamison Crowder on a 15-yarder in the third quarter that broke a 3-all tie, and with Josh Doctson on a 14-yarder with 3 1/2 minutes remaining in the game.

In between, cornerback Janoris Jenkins intercepted Cousins' pass and returned the ball 53 yards to make it 10-all.

In the second half, the Giants (2-9) had one possession end with an interception by Eli Manning, four end with punts and another when they turned the ball over on downs (see full recap). 

Eagles injury report: Jake Elliott still in concussion protocol

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Eagles injury report: Jake Elliott still in concussion protocol

Eagles kicker Jake Elliott is still in the NFL’s concussion protocol but it looks likely that he’ll be able to play on Sunday.

Elliott was a full participant in Thursday’s practice after being a limited participant on Wednesday. In Phase 4 of the concussion protocol, players are allowed to participate in non-contact drills.

Elliott suffered a concussion in the first half of Sunday’s game in Dallas and the team played the second half without a kicker. If Elliott can’t play against the Bears the Eagles will either bring back Caleb Sturgis from IR or sign an outside kicker.

While Elliott was able to practice  on Thursday, Beau Allen (knee) and Trey Burton (back) did not practice. Allen has missed practice Wednesday and Thursday.

Rodney McLeod (oblique) was a full participant on Thursday.