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 mailbag: Moving Rasul Douglas, keeping Donnel Pumphrey

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Eagles mailbag: Moving Rasul Douglas, keeping Donnel Pumphrey

We split up your questions, so Part I of the mailbag ran yesterday (see story).

Just a reminder: training camp starts on July 25 and the first practice will be July 26. 

Let’s not waste anymore time. 

I’ve heard this a ton from people and it makes sense. Douglas seems to have what you’d look for in a safety and the Eagles value coverage skills in that position, something Douglas clearly has. So I see that as a possibility, but the Eagles have seemed hesitant to move him or even to really cross-train him. For me, the time to do it would have been during the OTAs and minicamp. Why not slide him back there for a few days to see how he handles it? That’s how I would have handled it. Without any extended time at safety in the spring, it’s hard for me to envision real cross-training in the summer. Eventually, though, you’re right; this makes sense. 

I don’t think so. Pumphrey looked a little better this spring, but he better have a great training camp. Right now, I have the Eagles keeping four running backs: Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement, Matt Jones. If they keep five, Pump has a real chance; he’d just need to beat out Wendell Smallwood for that final spot. I think he has a decent chance, but I haven’t seen enough to give him a roster spot. He’s a player I’ll be watching extremely close at training camp. 

I’ll preface this by saying I’m no punter expert, but Cameron Johnston looks pretty solid to me. He was a really good punter at Ohio State and seemed to boot the ball pretty well this spring. The Eagles were comfortable enough with him to move on from Donnie Jones. 

To answer the second part, he will be the holder for Jake Elliott. The two have been working together this spring. While Johnston held last summer, Elliott was still in Cincinnati. They have to gel. 

In my latest 53-man roster projection, I actually don’t have Tre Sullivan in there. Instead, I went with Corey Graham, who is still on the street. I agree with you that in most situations going with the younger guy is the move, but not with this team. Not this year. Graham was such an important part of last year’s team. And because the Eagles have a legitimate shot to repeat, I’d try to bring him back. The Eagles have about $6 million in cap space. Get it done. 

Hi, John. Mango. Always mango. 

Eagles Mailbag: Biggest concern on 2018 roster

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Eagles Mailbag: Biggest concern on 2018 roster

We’ve officially reached the only sort of dead period on the NFL calendar. The Eagles are through their spring practices and won’t be back at the NovaCare Complex until July 25 for the start of training camp. 

That sounds far away, but it’ll be here before you know it. 

You guys were great and gave me a ton of questions, so I’ll answer half today and half Sunday. Let’s go: 

I’m tempted to say defensive tackle just for health concerns surrounding Tim Jernigan, but I have to answer linebacker. Jordan Hicks appears to be healthy after tearing his Achilles last year, but as good as he is when healthy, it’s just tough to count on him. Two years ago, he was able to play a full season and things were looking good, but then he suffered another serious injury. If Hicks and Bradham stay healthy, linebackers aren’t a concern. The Eagles will have either Kamu Grugier-Hill, Nate Gerry or Corey Nelson take the weakside spot on base downs and they’ll be OK. 

But without Mychal Kendricks, it’s fair to be concerned about their depth at the position, especially after veteran pickup Paul Worrilow was already lost for the year. Kendricks came up huge last year as a fill-in; not sure the Eagles have that kind of depth this year. 

Not sure yet. What I can tell you about De’Vante Bausby is that he was impressive this spring and the coaching staff seems to love him. I remain very, very skeptical that he’s good enough to keep Sidney Jones off the field. With that said, I do think he’s talented enough to make the 53-man roster. We’ll get a better sense at camp when the pads go on, but I have him penciled in to make the team. 

Yes on both. The Nate Sudfeld hype is real. In our first extended looks at the young quarterback, he’s been incredibly impressive. It’s starting to make sense why the Eagles snatched him from Washington and then blocked the Colts from signing him last season. They kept him on the 53 in the second half of last year, so they’re completely prepared to keep three QBs on this year’s roster if Foles is still on the team. 

This is going to be the summer of Nate Sudfeld. We’re going to see him play a ton in those preseason games and that will let us know if he’s ready to be QB2 behind Carson Wentz. But the fact that the Eagles didn’t bring in a more experienced veteran after Wentz went down last year pretty much tells you all you need to know about what the Eagles think of him. 

We tried that. Didn’t work out well. We’re up for suggestions. 

You have no idea how out of water this fish is. This is like taking a fish from the ocean and dropping it in Kansas. 

How about Portugal? I’ll go with them because of Ronaldo.