Eagles

Derek Barnett shows off developing pass rush arsenal in strong NFL debut

Derek Barnett shows off developing pass rush arsenal in strong NFL debut

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Chris Long still remembers the first time he ever stepped foot onto an NFL field. 

"It was like cars moving by you on a highway," the 32-year-old vet said late Thursday night. "That's what it felt like to me. It was fast."

It didn't look quite that fast for Derek Barnett. 

The Eagles' first-round rookie got a chance to play in his first NFL game on Friday at Lambeau Field. And he didn't disappoint, picking up two sacks in the Eagles' 24-9 loss (see Instant Replay)

The first sack came with just under seven minutes to play in the second quarter. Barnett used a counter move and powered through Packers second-team left tackle Jason Spriggs, simply tossing him out of the way. 

Spriggs is 6-foot-6, 301 pounds. 

"It was nice to get one, honestly," Barnett said. "Anyway I can get there, it's nice to get there. Because [sacks are] so hard to come by." 

The buzz around Barnett coming out of Tennessee was about his incredible bend and speed pass rushing. During this training camp, however, he's been working hard to develop inside pass-rushing moves. 

That hard work paid off when he dropped Brett Hundley for an eight-yard loss. 

"It's a great thing to add to your arsenal," Long said. "For somebody like that, people are going to have to worry about his speed, it's just something that he's going to have to develop. Tonight was a big step."

A few minutes later, Barnett went to his bread and butter for his second sack. He sped around the edge to drop Hundley for a 12-yard loss. 

"I knew coming in they do quick game and stuff, so our coaches told us just keep on pushing, don't get down because the ball can come out quick," Barnett said. "Keep on grinding and eventually, you're going to get some." 

By the end of the game, Barnett had put together an impressive stat line: two sacks, four combined tackles, two QB hits and two tackles for loss. 

Barnett is one of three defensive ends on the team who were drafted in the first round. Long was the second pick in 2008; you already heard about his NFL debut. And Brandon Graham was the 13th pick in 2010. 

"I think what he did was what I wanted to do — get two sacks in the first game," Graham said. "And that's nice just to start it off right. It just feels good because he got a couple and it's going to carry over. He got a little bit of what the game speed is like."

Aside from facing Spriggs, Barnett also got a series against Packers Pro Bowl left tackle David Bakhtiari and held his own. Barnett said practicing against Jason Peters and Lane Johnson daily helped prepare him for Bakhtiari. 

"I thought [Barnett] really stepped up, and once he got his legs under him, he played well," head coach Doug Pederson said. "He played hard and it was exciting to see him around the quarterback."

It's just one game, but Barnett's NFL career got off to a good start on Thursday night.  

The cars weren't whizzing by him that fast. 

"It's fast. Faster than college," he said. "I just try to take it a snap at a time and just focus on that one snap and that one play. After that, clear to the next play."

Pederson interviewing 2 for Eagles' OC job

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Pederson interviewing 2 for Eagles' OC job

While many folks are off for Presidents Day, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson is hard at work trying to figure out how to replace Frank Reich. 

Pederson is spending his Monday interviewing running backs coach Duce Staley and wide receivers coach Mike Groh for the Eagles' vacant offensive coordinator position, a league source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia. ESPN's Tim McManus first reported the news Monday. 

It's possible one or both coaches could take over in some sort of offensive coordinator role. 

Reich left his post as offensive coordinator earlier this month when he accepted the head coaching job in Indianapolis. While it might not seem like an OC who doesn't call the plays has a big role, Reich was a good sounding board for Pederson and seemed to be very-well trusted by the head coach. He also helped put the weekly gameplan together. 

It makes sense that the Eagles don't want to go outside the organization to hire an offensive coordinator. Pederson trusts Staley and Groh and the chemistry inside the NovaCare Complex was tremendous during the Eagles' run to Super Bowl LII. 

Either way, Pederson is going to oversee the offense and call plays. Staley or Groh, if one or both are promoted, will handle some extra responsibility, but it'll still all be on Pederson. 

While Staley has been with the Eagles as a coach since 2011, working his way up from a quality control coach to running backs coach in 2013, Groh is a newcomer. He was added to the staff before the 2017 season to take over for Greg Lewis after the Eagles fired him. Groh did an impressive job last season, particularly with helping transform Nelson Agholor from a bust to one of the team's more explosive weapons. 

LeGarrette Blount makes his desire to stay in Philly clear

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LeGarrette Blount makes his desire to stay in Philly clear

LeGarrette Blount is fresh off of his third Super Bowl title and second in two years with two different teams. 

It sounds like he doesn't really want to go to a third team in three years. 

Blount, 31, played on a one-year deal worth around $1.25 million with the Eagles in 2017, but is set to become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year starts on March 14. He made it pretty clear on Sunday that he wouldn't mind coming back to Philly for another run. 

"It's early so we'll see," Blount said on NFL Network. 

"Obviously I like it a lot there. They like me a lot there. It's a mutual respect and a mutual agreement thing about how we feel about each other. Obviously, you guys know how I feel about the team, the guys; I love those guys. 

"I can't say enough about Duce (Staley), just for the simple fact for how well I was coached there and how good he helped me understand things. I feel like Duce is one of the best running back coaches, one of the best coaches I've ever had in my entire life. I obviously want to be a part of that for a while, so we'll see how it goes."

Blount began the year as the Eagles' top running back, but lost some of his role once the team traded for former Pro Bowler Jay Ajayi. But Blount still played a significant role in the Eagles' run to winning Super Bowl LII. 

During the season, he was the team's top rusher with 173 carries for 766 yards and two touchdowns. But then in Super Bowl LII, he had 14 carries for 90 yards and a touchdown, helping the Eagles to a 41-33 win over his former team, the Patriots. 

The Eagles are going to bring back Ajayi and second-year player Corey Clement. After that, things get murky. Blount and Darren Sproles (coming off injury) are both set to become free agents. 

Blount wasn't shy about his love for the Eagles during his interview on Sunday. He cited trust and how they handled the Ajayi trade with him as big reasons why. 

"They talked to me throughout the process of it happening," Blount said. "They were like, 'we're trading for Jay Ajayi, we just want to let you know.' Like I said, that's obviously another big thing for me, the honesty in that building and how open they are and how they don't keep any kind of secrets for you. They just tell you how it is. It's a big respect thing. Duce was the first person to reach out to me and be like, 'hey, we traded for Jay Ajayi. I just want to let you know.' Again, man, that's why it's a place that I love and I hope to stay there." 

Late in the six-and-a-half minute video, the crew brought out Clement while Blount was answering a question about the rookie. Blount laughed during the middle of his answer, but then got back on track and praised Clement. The two became very close during the 2017 season. 

After Blount's answer, Clement got to chat with his teammate and said getting to work with Blount was a "tremendous opportunity" and would clearly like to keep the core group together in the running back room next season. 

Obviously, it's not up to Clement, but Blount will play a big role and we already know what he thinks of the Eagles.