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.”
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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