Derek Barnett

X's and O's — How Eagles should utilize Michael Bennett

X's and O's — How Eagles should utilize Michael Bennett

Jim Schwartz gets another cog in an already impressive defensive front four in Michael Bennett, who fits the scheme Schwartz wants to run. 

Bennett can play both defensive end and tackle at a Pro Bowl level. Bennett’s pass rush, I would say, mainly consists of moves that come from his power. The initial step is always toward the QB, which forces the O-lineman to punch or grab him. As an OL myself, I wanted to be the first to initiate contact because I knew the snap count and the direction I wanted the defender to go. Bennett is so explosive and physical with his first step that he forces the issue. It's constant pressure on the O-line, always working toward the ball. 

Bennett also has very good hands. Good pass rushers never allow an O-lineman to get his hands on them. (Hand-to-hand combat in the trenches is where the game is won on passing downs.) Bennett is pretty good at using Mr. Miyagi's wax-on, wax-off technique as he knocks an O-lineman's hands off of him on his way to the QB.

The Eagles will use Bennett across the defensive line at every position but probably the most at DT. With the probable departure of Beau Allen to free agency, depth would have been a problem. Not anymore.

There will be serious competition at the starting DT opposite of Fletcher Cox. Yes, Tim Jernigan earned his extension last year, but Bennett will push to be a starter. Schwartz rewards results with more playing time and Bennett is good enough to compete as a starter in the middle at DT.

From an X's and O's breakdown, Bennett can be a major factor in the middle on pass-rush downs. On third down, the Eagles like to use Nascar personnel — three defensive ends and Cox. It’s hard to imagine being an offensive coordinator game-planning which D-lineman to double-team and which to chip with a running back. Which way do you slide the protection? 

Think about the Eagles D-line rotation OCs will have to prepare for. You'll have Brandon Graham-Cox-Jernigan-Derek Barnett or Graham-Cox-Bennett-Barnett or Chris Long-Bennett-Graham-Barnett. Prepare for a lot of QB-crushing hits from a top-notch defensive line that just got even more versatile.

Eagles Stay or Go Part 1 — Nelson Agholor to Derek Barnett

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Eagles Stay or Go Part 1 — Nelson Agholor to Derek Barnett

In the first part of our 12-part offseason series examining the future of the world champion Eagles, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro try to figure out who will be on the roster in 2018. We'll go alphabetically  Part 1 is Nelson Agholor to Derek Barnett. 

Nelson Agholor
Roob: Agholor has gone from being a giant question mark going into last season to a relative bargain in 2018 with a $2.983 million cap figure in a contract year. Agholor was one of many heartwarming stories on the 2017 Eagles, with a breakthrough season and a dynamite Super Bowl. At some point in the next year, the Eagles and Agholor will agree on a long-term, multi-million deal. He's only 24 years old and he's going to be the centerpiece of this receiving corps for years to come.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: In a year, we've gone from talking about possibly moving on from Agholor to now starting to think about a contract extension. Really. Because of the slow start in his career, Agholor is entering the final year of his rookie contract in 2018; he'll have a cap number of just under $3 million, which is now a steal. Remember, the Eagles can use a fifth-year option to keep him in town in 2019 if they can't reach a new deal. Agholor was that good in 2017. He caught 62 passes for 768 yards. He had just 21 fewer receiving yards than Alshon Jeffery. And in the Super Bowl, Agholor caught nine balls for 84 yards. He offers the Eagles a shifty, quick player in the slot and he became a dynamic player after the catch in his third NFL season.  

Verdict: STAYS

Jay Ajayi
Roob: It will be interesting to see how the Eagles' running backs all line up next year. When training camp started last summer, LeGarrette Blount, Wendell Smallwood, Darren Sproles and Donnel Pumphrey were the main guys, and by the end of the season, only one of them was on the field. My hunch is that Ajayi and Corey Clement will be the lead backs in 2018. Ajayi was very good after joining the Eagles, but he really sold me with his postseason performance — 184 yards and a 4.4 average in the three playoff games. Eventually, the Eagles will have to make a decision, since his contract is also up after 2018. But I'd love to see what he can do behind this offensive line with a full training camp and a full season.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: He came into the fold during the season and picked up everything pretty quickly. Now just imagine how much better he'll be with an entire offseason in Doug Pederson's scheme. He's going to be the Eagles' feature back in 2018 and he'll be the feature back for cheap as he enters the final year on his rookie contract. Now, trying to figure out an extension with him might be tricky, especially because of his chronic knee issue, but that's a problem to deal with later. 

Verdict: STAYS

Beau Allen
Roob: Allen became a pretty significant part of the Eagles' defensive line the second half of the year and played almost as many snaps as Tim Jernigan the last couple months of the season. He's a no-nonsense run stuffer but a solid interior lineman. He'll become an unrestricted free agent this spring, but I would think the Eagles could get him back with a cap-friendly deal. It's possible there's a team out there that will bowl over Allen with a big-money offer, but I doubt it. And if the numbers are equal, I'd expect him to re-sign here.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: It's a shame that Allen tore his pec while working out last spring because before that, the Eagles were working on an extension with the rotational defensive lineman. But since then, the team has re-signed Jernigan and has a ton of money locked up in the defensive line. And now Allen is going to be an unrestricted free agent. While it's true that the Birds really value their D-line, how much can they really spend on a backup player? It might be time for them to draft one instead and let Allen walk. After proving himself in Jim Schwartz's 4-3 scheme, Allen should have plenty of teams with his choice of scheme. 

Verdict: GOES

Kenjon Barner
 If the Eagles cut ties with Blount, Sproles and Pumphrey, Barner could be back as a returner and third running back behind Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement. Barner actually finished 10th in the NFL at 8.9 yards per punt return after joining the Eagles a month into the season. He's not a bad guy to have around. But I think Sproles wants to be here and would be willing to give the Eagles a hometown discount to play one final NFL season and serve as a third back and returner.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: Barner was on the street to start the season until Sproles went down and the Eagles brought Barner back. He became the team's top punt and kick returner but put up modest numbers in both areas. Barner will be 29 before the 2018 season starts and he's never really made a huge impact in the NFL. If he was able to really take control of the returner jobs and be great at it, maybe the Eagles would sign him again to bring him back. Hey, maybe there will be some goodwill after winning the Super Bowl, but it's probably not worth it. 

Verdict: GOES

Derek Barnett
Roob: Barnett is going to be a stud. You could just see him get better and better as the season went on. He had a couple lulls, but every rookie does. After being held without a sack in his first five games, Barnett had five in the Eagles' last 11 games and added another sack, along with a forced fumble and a rather important fumble recovery in the postseason. His six total sacks, including the postseason, were actually fourth-most in franchise history by a rookie and most by a rookie defensive end since Derrick Burgess had seven back in 2001. Barnett's going to be around for quite a while.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: The Eagles' 2017 first-round pick didn't have a monster rookie season. He didn't go out and get double-digit sacks, but he was solid all year and showed flashes of becoming a great pass rusher. Five sacks as a rookie in a rotational role aren't too shabby either. Oh yeah, he also recovered the fumble after Brandon Graham's strip sack in the Super Bowl. Barnett is only going to get better and has the potential to be a star in the NFL. 

Verdict: STAYS

Super Bowl champs! Eagles take down Pats to cap special season

Super Bowl champs! Eagles take down Pats to cap special season


MINNEAPOLIS — All the grease in the world isn't going to keep Eagles fans off those light poles in the city. 

The Birds are coming home with the Lombardi Trophy (see celebration).

For the first time in franchise history, the Eagles have won the biggest game in sports. In an incredible performance, they bested Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, 41-33, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota on Sunday night. 

Nick Foles played magnificently as the Eagles' offense out-fired Brady on the stage where he's become the G.O.A.T. and Brandon Graham made an incredible play when the Eagles absolutely needed him to (see story).

There's finally going to be a green parade down Broad Street (see Roob's observations).

After all they went through this season, it seemed rather fitting that it all ended like this. What a game. It certainly wasn't easy. 

While Foles was throwing dimes, the defense struggled. The Eagles gave up 613 yards. It's the most yards they've given up in any game in the Super Bowl era, regular season or playoffs. Didn't matter. 

Eventually, they pulled it off. Somehow, defying the odds, like they've done all season (see story)

The Eagles took a 22-12 lead into halftime after a ridiculous first 30 minutes that featured 673 total yards of offense. The Patriots actually outgained the Eagles in the first half but it didn't matter. The Eagles went up 10 when Pederson pulled off what might have been the gutsiest play call in Super Bowl history (see story)

The Birds got on the scoreboard first with a field goal but the Patriots were able to match it with one of their own. From there, the offensive floodgates opened and the two teams got into a shootout. The craziest thing about the Eagles' trick play is that the Patriots tried one of their own earlier in the game and Brady couldn't bring in the pass.

Turning point
Even though they already had the lead, that Graham strip sack has to be it. When Brady has the ball in his hands down one score, nothing feels safe. Every Eagles fan in the building likely felt that way. Until Graham knocked the ball free. 

Key stat
The Patriots' 613 yards of offense is the highest total in Super Bowl history. 

It didn't matter. 

Offensive stud
Foles made some incredible throws on Sunday night. We wondered which Foles would show up. No question. It was the good one. He's the MVP (see story)

Offensive dud
Jay Ajayi didn't have the kind of game many people probably thought he would have. 

Defensive stud
The defense was lackluster all game, but Graham made the play of the night with his strip sack on Brady. 

Defensive dud
Jalen Mills made some plays but also got called for a big penalty and was beaten on a deep ball to Chris Hogan. Corey Graham struggled to cover Rob Gronkowski. 

Key plays
• Jake Elliott hit a 46-yarder to put the Eagles up eight points after the Graham strip sack. 

• After the Eagles' offense took the lead, Graham got a strip sack on Brady and the ball bounced into Derek Barnett's hands. The place erupted. 

• On 3rd-and-7 from the Patriots' 11-yard line, Foles hit Zach Ertz for a touchdown to take back the lead from the Patriots with 2:21 left in the game. The play was reviewed, but upheld. Then the Eagles failed on the two-point conversion. 

• Brady hit Gronk, covered by Ronald Darby, for a 4-yard touchdown pass to give the Patriots their first lead in the game at 33-32 with 9:22 remaining in the fourth quarter. It capped another 75-yard touchdown drive. 

• Elliott kicked a 43-yarder to increase the Eagles' lead early in the fourth quarter to 32-26. 

• Brady hit Hogan for a 26-yard touchdown pass with 3:23 left in the third quarter to cut into the Eagles' lead, 29-26. It capped a 75-yard touchdown drive. 

• Foles hit Corey Clement for a beautiful 22-yard touchdown pass in the end zone on 3rd-and-6. The play was reviewed but the call stood. Clement caught the ball and got both feet down in bounds. That put the Eagles up 29-19. 

• Gronkowski caught a 5-yard touchdown pass on the Patriots' first drive of the second half. On that drive, he had four catches for 68 yards and a touchdown after having just one for nine yards in the first half. 

• In the gutsiest play call of the year, Pederson dialed up that insane gadget play on 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line to give the Eagles a 22-12 lead heading into halftime. 

• James White had a 26-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter to cut into the Eagles' lead. He broke three tackles on his way to the end zone to make the score 15-12 after the missed extra point. Mills had a rough go on the 90-yard drive. He was called for a penalty and then got beat deep on a pass to Hogan. 

• Foles tossed a deep pass to Alshon Jeffery that was tipped up and intercepted by Duron Harmon in the second quarter. Jeffery almost made a circus catch but actually tipped it up to the DB. 

• LeGarrette Blount rumbled into the west end zone for a 21-yard touchdown in the second quarter to put the Eagles up 15-3. The two-point conversion play failed. 

• Brady became a receiver on a key trick third-down play in the second quarter and dropped the ball. He's the best quarterback in NFL history and the Patriots decided to make him a receiver. OK. Then on fourth down, his pass to Gronkowski fell incomplete and the Eagles took over on downs.

• On a 3rd-and-2 from the Eagles' 9-yard line, the Patriots handed the ball off to Brandin Cooks, who tried to hurdle Rodney McLeod. McLeod simply stood up and slammed him to the ground. Then the Patriots missed a 26-yard field goal after a botched snap. 

• After Blount broke off a big, rumbling 36-yard run, the Eagles followed it up with an incredible play-action pass. Foles tossed a dime to Jeffery, who caught the ball over Eric Rowe for a 34-yard touchdown (see story). The Eagles went up 9-3 after Elliott missed the extra point. 

• Mills broke up a pass to Gronkowski in front of the end zone on third down to force a Patriots field goal on their first drive. Before that, the Pats sliced through the Eagles' defense using some tempo to get them out of their game. 

• The Eagles converted two third downs, the last of which was a 3rd-and-12 pass to Torrey Smith for 15 yards. The Eagles capped the 14-play drive (7:05) with a 23-yard field goal to put them up 3-0. 

Injury update
Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring) returned to action after missing the NFC Championship Game and the Eagles' sick players were able to heal up enough in time for the game. 

Stefen Wisniewski left for a brief time during the game but returned. 

Up next
See you at the parade.