Eagles' Derek Barnett takes a huge step in his recovery

Eagles' Derek Barnett takes a huge step in his recovery

Derek Barnett was happy but not content on Saturday after he took a huge step in his lengthy shoulder recovery. 

For the first time all summer, Barnett participated in full-squad 11-on-11 drills. 

“It felt good,” Barnett said to NBC Sports Philadelphia after practice concluded. “Not where I want to be, not where I need to be, but positive we’ll get it done.”

To be fair, Barnett is something of a perfectionist and said he’ll never be content. So he wasn’t just talking about his progress specifically in terms of his recovery from rotator cuff surgery last season. In general, he thinks there are some little technical things — footwork, hands, eye discipline — on which he needs to work. But getting him back on the practice field is a great sign, especially with four weeks to go before the regular-season opener. 

Entering a pretty huge Year 3, the 23-year-old defensive end should be good to go against Washington on Sept. 8. 

“My goal is to be ready,” Barnett said. “Every day, still going to progress that way. It felt good to be back on the ball field, running around.”

In addition to taking part in 11-on-11 drills, Barnett also participated in offensive line vs. defensive line drills for the first time this summer. His signature bend was on display against Jordan Mailata in those drills. 

Before Saturday, Barnett had participated in individual drills, but wasn’t really able to do anything resembling real football. He was a spectator for the periods of practice that count most. 

What was the hardest part about the last few weeks? 

“Not playing football,” Barnett said flatly. “I like playing football, so that s--- was hard.” 

Fair enough. 

It looked like the 2017 first-round pick was poised to have a breakout season in 2018 but his shoulder injury ruined that. Before his injury, Barnett had 2½ sacks in four games in his first year as a starter, but he suffered through just two more subpar games before deciding it was best to have season-ending surgery. It wasn’t a decision he took lightly, but he realized it was the best move. 

Coming into this season, Barnett is slated to start at the defensive end spot opposite Brandon Graham with Fletcher Cox and Malik Jackson sandwiched between them. 

This is a defensive line with a ton of talent. 

“We’ll be as good as we want to be,” Barnett said. “If we practice well, we’ll be in good shape, and do the small things right. But everybody is good in the NFL. Talent don’t mean nothing. It’s all about the work you put in and how it translates into game situations. We have a lot of talent but we still gotta go out there and compete.”

Barnett took a big step toward that this weekend. 

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The Eagles all-time team: Who plays offensive tackle?

The Eagles all-time team: Who plays offensive tackle?

Throughout July, we are unveiling our all-time Eagles team. 

We enlisted the help of Eagles reporters Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro, Quick Slants hosts Derrick Gunn and Barrett Brooks and Quick Slants producer Mike Mulhern to handle the voting. 

Each voter ranked his top five players at 16 different positions. A 1st-place vote was worth five points, a 2nd-place vote was worth four, and so on. 

Up next: Offensive tackle

Complete voting: 

1. Jason Peters = 25
2. Lane Johnson= 15
3. Tra Thomas = 14
4. Jon Runyan = 10
5. Al Wistert = 9
6. Barrett Brooks = 1
6. Stan Walters = 1

The breakdown: After Donovan McNabb and Zach Ertz each got 24 of a possible 25 points, we have our first unanimous pick in Jason Peters, who was first on all five ballots. The battle for the second starting spot was very competitive. The second-place votes were split among Lane Johnson (2), Jon Runyan (1) and Tra Thomas (1).  Johnson edged out Thomas 15-14 for second place, with Runyan fourth and Wistert fifth. Someone —  can’t imagine who — gave Barrett Brooks a 5th-place vote, and Stan Walters also got one 5th-place vote.

Did we get it right? No question about it. Peters made the Pro Bowl in seven straight seasons in which he played, was a two-time 1st-team all-pro and delivered elite left tackle performance for nearly a decade, blocking for every Eagles quarterback from Donovan McNabb to Carson Wentz. If anyone got snubbed, it’s Al Wistert, who was a four-time 1st-team all-pro, so he made all-pro as many times as every other guy on the list combined. He should be higher, but there’s some recency bias at work here. 

Complete team: 
QB: Donovan McNabb
RB: LeSean McCoy
WR: Harold Carmichael
WR: Mike Quick
WR: Tommy McDonald
TE: Zach Ertz
OT: Jason Peters
OT: Lane Johnson

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Most important Eagles for 2020: We finally get to No. 1 … Carson Wentz

Most important Eagles for 2020: We finally get to No. 1 … Carson Wentz

Over the last four weeks we have been counting down the 20 most important Eagles for the 2020 season. 

20. Nate Sudfeld 
19. Avonte Maddox
18. Nathan Gerry
17. Dallas Goedert  
16. Derek Barnett
15. Jalen Reagor 
14. Jalen Mills
13. Brandon Brooks
12. Rodney McLeod
11. Javon Hargrave
10. Miles Sanders  
9. Andre Dillard
8. Brandon Graham
7. Zach Ertz 
6. DeSean Jackson 
5. Lane Johnson
4. Darius Slay

3. Jason Kelce
2. Fletcher Cox
1. Carson Wentz

We have finally reached the end of our countdown and we finish off with the franchise quarterback. 

Carson Wentz is coming off the first 4,000-yard passing season in Eagles history and he put the team on his back to win the final four games of 2019 to get into the playoffs. But then in the playoff game, he lasted just a handful snaps in his first playoff game before getting knocked out. 

I understand why some people would look at this list and say Wentz shouldn’t be No. 1. After all, look what Nick Foles did in 2017 and 2018, winning a total of four playoff games in that span. But Foles isn’t here anymore and that 2017 squad was simply a team of destiny. 

The Eagles desperately need Wentz to stay healthy in 2020. 

No, Wentz hasn’t gotten back to his near-MVP performance level in 2017 but what he did last season was still pretty impressive. Check out his first four seasons in the NFL: 

2016: 16 games, 62.4%, 3,782 yards, 16 TDs, 14 INTs, 79.3 rating 
2017: 13 games, 60.2%, 3,296 yards, 33 TDs, 7 INTs, 101.9 rating
2018: 11 games, 69.6%, 3,074 yards, 21 TDs, 7 INTs, 102.2 rating 
2019: 16 games, 63.9%, 4,039 yards, 27 TDs, 7 INTs, 93.1 rating 

Wentz is very good. And with some new weapons around him in 2020, he should be even better. Remember, by the end of the 2019 season, he was throwing to a bunch of guys who began the season on the practice squad. According to ProFootballFocus, Wentz had 32 of his passes dropped last season, the third-highest total in the league. 

There are still plenty of questions about his receivers and he’ll have at least two new starters on the offensive line. But the overall offense around Wentz in 2020 should be better. 

And even if it isn’t, Wentz proved last season that he has the ability to put the team on his back and lead them to victory. He led the Eagles on four game-winning drives in 2019; he had four in his first three seasons. 

Earlier this offseason, I put together my ranking of the 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL and put Wentz at No. 7: 

1. Patrick Mahomes 
2. Russell Wilson 
3. Lamar Jackson 
4. Drew Brees
5. Aaron Rodgers
6. Deshaun Watson 
7. Carson Wentz

I put Wentz at seventh because he can do things on a football field few other men in the world can do. Put him in the category with Mahomes, Rodgers, Jackson and Watson in terms of his ability to use his legs and arm. No, Wentz isn’t like Jackson, who will pick up tons of yards on the ground. But Wentz is tough to bring down and is at his best when he’s able to move out of the pocket and throw on the move. 

With that in mind, the addition of Rich Scangarello to the Eagles’ coaching staff could end up doing wonders for Wentz’s career. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons the Eagles hired Scangarello after he was fired as the Broncos’ offensive coordinator. 

Wentz is entering Year 5 of his NFL career in 2020. He has already gotten his huge contract and has been a very good player. If he gets back to playing at an MVP level and is able to stay on the field, this Eagles team could go far. 

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