Eagles

Eagles rookie report: Derek Barnett struggles vs. All-Pro Trent Williams

Eagles rookie report: Derek Barnett struggles vs. All-Pro Trent Williams

Our weekly rookie report got off to a modest start in Week 1 with only three rookies active in the Eagles' 30-17 win over the Redskins on Sunday (see breakdown).

First-round pick Derek Barnett, fourth-round wideout Mack Hollins and undrafted rookie running back Corey Clement were the only first-year players to dress at FedEx Field.

Here are a few highlights from their debuts:

1st quarter, 15:00, Eagles 0, Redskins, 0
If you had Clement as the first rookie to make an impact play, you nailed it. Caleb Sturgis drove the opening kick to the 1-yard line, forcing Bashaud Breeland to make a return. Clement stayed in his lane and when Breeland tried to break the return to the left, Clement was there to greet him. He made a sure tackle and forced the Redskins to start at their own 16.

Clement was also in on a special-teams tackle in the third quarter on an ill-advised return by Breeland at the Washington 19. Clement seems pretty comfortable out there on the Eagles' kickoff unit.

1st quarter, 14:12, 3rd-and-11 at WAS 15, Eagles 0, Redskins, 0
Barnett got into the action early on and got a tough assignment. Barnett was lined up on the right side against perennial All-Pro Trent Williams. It was an interesting personnel grouping by defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. With Barnett on the right, Chris Long was in at left end with Brandon Graham kicked in at tackle and Fletcher Cox at the other inside spot. The matchup went how you'd expect. Barnett tried an outside rush and Williams just ate him up, giving Kirk Cousins time to hit Terrelle Pryor for a 12-yard gain and a first down.

1st quarter, 12:49, 3rd-and 11 at WAS 26, Eagles 0, Redskins, 0
Pretty much the same scenario as the previous one for Barnett in the same personnel grouping. This time Barnett gets chipped by tight end Jordan Reed who was lined up in the backfield. Again, Barnett doesn't sniff Cousins.

2nd quarter, 11:35, 1st-and-10 at WAS 36, Eagles 13, Redskins 0
Barnett records his first NFL tackle and it's one for a loss. The Redskins attempt to block Barnett on the backside of a run with tight end Vernon Davis. Barnett tosses Davis aside and brings down Robert Kelley for a short loss. Barnett is relentless in pursuit and won't give up on plays that aren't run to his side. And forget trying to block him with a tight end. It was a very Brandon Graham-esque play. How many times have we seen Graham come from the backside to blow up a running play?

3rd quarter, 6:59, 2nd-and-6 at WAS 40, Eagles 19, Redskins 14
On this play, the Redskins inexplicably have Reed blocking Barnett 1-on-1. Barnett wins with a bull rush but is then tackled by Reed as the pocket collapsed around Cousins. There definitely should have been a hold called on Reed. Instead, Cousins is able to escape the pocket and scramble for seven yards and a first down.

Analysis
Barnett is a rookie and looked like one. It was a tough assignment for him in his first NFL game. Williams is arguably the best left tackle in football, and he engulfed Barnett for the most part. But don't freak out Eagles fans. These matchups will only make the 21-year-old better. 

Hollins only played one offensive snap, but he wasn't a factor on the play. He did make a special-teams tackle in the fourth quarter on punt coverage.

The only reason Clement is active on game day is his ability to play special teams. I don't see him getting any offensive snaps anytime soon, but it's nice to see him contribute on kickoff coverage.

Eagles might lose backup defensive back

usa-watkins.jpg
USA Today Images

Eagles might lose backup defensive back

Jaylen Watkins' time in Philadelphia might just be coming to an end. 

The Eagles don't plan to tender Watkins, who is a restricted free agent, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport

Watkins, 26, played a decent role with the Eagles in 2017. He came into the summer as a safety, but when the team needed him at corner, he began to fill in there. He offered them a backup at multiple spots. 

So why won't the Eagles tender him? 

Well, if the Eagles did place a tender on Watkins, it would have been an original-round tender. He was drafted in the fourth round back in 2014. So teams could have negotiated with Watkins as a RFA but if the Eagles didn't match the offer sheet, they'd get back a fourth-round pick. Sounds great, except for one thing. 

The problem with the original-round tender is that it would bring back Watkins on a one-year deal worth just over $1.9 million. That's a projection after last year's number was just under $1.8 million. 

Watkins proved to be a valuable backup for the Eagles in 2017, but $1.9 million is probably just a little too pricey, especially as the Eagles are sitting around $9 million over the cap and have to trim that number down. 

And the Birds should have plenty of younger depth at corner in 2018. 

Not tendering Watkins doesn't necessarily mean he won't be back. What it does mean is he'll be an unrestricted free agent when the new league year starts on March 14. He will be able to negotiate with any team freely, but that will also include the Eagles, who might be willing to bring him back for a lesser price. 

Darren Sproles doesn't look ready to retire

usa-darren-sproles.jpg
USA Today Images

Darren Sproles doesn't look ready to retire

Darren Sproles seems well on his way to a full recovery.

Just five months after tearing his ACL and breaking his forearm, Sproles posted this video in his Instagram story.

The 12-year veteran back and return specialist has been saying that he's not quite ready to retire. 

"I don't have to play next year, but I'm leaning towards coming back," Sproles said back in December. "I can't end like this."

The Eagles will have an interesting decision to make regarding Sproles who will be a free agent this offseason along with veteran LeGarrette Blount. With Jay Ajayi locked in for 2018 and the emergence of undrafted back Corey Clement, the Super Bowl champions face some tough choices.