Eagles

Eagles 2019 breakout candidate: Derek Barnett needs to pick up where he left off

Eagles 2019 breakout candidate: Derek Barnett needs to pick up where he left off

This week, I’ll be taking a closer look at five young Eagles who have a chance to enjoy a “breakout season” in 2019. 

Up first: Derek Barnett 

Age: 23 

How acquired: 2017 first-round pick 

Entering: Year 3 

You could really argue that Barnett had already started his breakout season in 2018 but got hurt. His torn rotator cuff forced him to get surgery and end his season far too early. 

His numbers in 2018 didn’t look great; he had 16 tackles and 2 1/2 sacks in six games, but those last two games he was already hurt. So, I’m going to break down his shortened 2018 season even more. In four games, before the injury, Barnett had 13 tackles and 2 1/2 sacks; he was the Eagles best defensive end to that point. (He played his last two games of 2018 with a bum shoulder after missing a week.) 

Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz in May noted that Barnett was playing at a high level before the injury in 2018. 

“With him,” Schwartz said, “it’s a matter of picking up where he left off.” 

So Barnett was on pace for a season with 52 tackles and 10 sacks. That might not sound elite, but just 10 players in the league put up those numbers last season: Aaron Donald, J.J. Watt, Danielle Hunter, Dee Ford, T.J. Watt, Jason Pierre-Paul, DeForest Buckner, Bradley Chubb, Calais Campbell and DeMarcus Lawrence. I’m not suggesting Barnett was — or will be — as good as some of those players, but he was on pace to be in their company. 

Maybe it’s unfair to extrapolate Barnett’s production from four games to an entire season — it is a relatively small sample size — but this is a guy who went in the first round for a reason. He has that type of talent. So I’m more inclined to believe what I saw in those four games is real, that Barnett was starting to tap into the talent that made him the 14th pick in 2017, as opposed to thinking he was off to a flukey good start to 2018. In fact, he went sack-less in his first two starts of 2018 and had 2 1/2 in Week 3 and Week 4 before the injury, so you can even argue he was still trending up before he got hurt. 

And we know Barnett will have opportunity. Despite missing spring practices as he continues to recover from that shoulder surgery, Barnett is going to be a starter this season and he’s going to play a ton. Barnett and Brandon Graham are the Eagles’ starters, while Vinny Curry, Josh Sweat and possibly Shareef Miller are set to be their backups. The Eagles aren’t nearly as deep at the position as they were a year ago, when they began the season with Michael Bennett and Chris Long coming off the bench, so they’re really counting on Barnett to have a big year. 

And head coach Doug Pederson last month specifically praised Barnett for working hard to return from his injury. It’s kind of hard to stand out when you’re injured, but Barnett did it this spring. 

The crazy thing is that Barnett, who already has two NFL seasons under his belt, just turned 23 on June 25. The Eagles have three rookies this summer who are 24. Because he was a first-round pick, the Eagles have control of Barnett’s rights through the 2021 season, at which time he’ll still be just 25 with five years of experience. If 2019 is a breakout season for Barnett, the Eagles could be getting a great player for a long time. 

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Popular former Eagles special teams player Chris Maragos announces his retirement

Popular former Eagles special teams player Chris Maragos announces his retirement

After missing all of last season and recently undergoing a third surgery for a significant knee injury suffered in 2017, former Eagles special teams captain Chris Maragos officially announced his retirement on Tuesday afternoon.

Maragos, 32, suffered a torn PCL on Oct. 12, 2017, and hasn’t played since. The Eagles officially released him in February.

Here is the announcement from Maragos:

Unfortunately, his time in the NFL was cut short by the injury against the Panthers in Week 6 of 2017. But he had a pretty good and improbable career.

After a couple years at Western Michigan, Maragos transferred to Wisconsin to continue his college career as a wide receiver. But in 2008, Badgers then-head coach Bret Bielema watched a play in which Maragos tracked down a defensive back after an interception and moved him to defense immediately and it stuck. Maragos played defensive back for his final two college seasons.

After going undrafted in 2010, Maragos played three games with the 49ers before carving out a role with the Seahawks for three seasons, from 2011-13. He joined the Eagles in 2014 and almost immediately became a difference maker on special teams and eventually became a special teams captain. For part of his time in Philly, he even had a significant role on defense, but he’ll be remembered for his contributions on special teams.

During his NFL career, Maragos played in 99 games (53 with the Eagles) with three starts. He was a part of two Super Bowl winners. Even though he was on the shelf with his knee injury by the time the Eagles played in Super Bowl LII, he was an important part of that team. He was one of the leaders of the injured group that included Carson Wentz, Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks and Darren Sproles.

Even last season, Maragos was still around the team, offering a veteran voice for some younger players.

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How important will deep threat DeSean Jackson be for Eagles in 2019 season?

How important will deep threat DeSean Jackson be for Eagles in 2019 season?

In DeSean Jackson, the Eagles have a legitimate deep threat. 

The 32-year-old led the NFL in yards per reception last season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with 18.9 and now, he's back in the city where he began his career.

How important will Jackson be for the Eagles this year?

With training camp approaching, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Derrick Gunn and Barrett Brooks discuss Jackson's role and how integral he might be in the video above.

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