Eagles

Film shows Derek Barnett came up big vs. Colts

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NFL

Film shows Derek Barnett came up big vs. Colts

Despite the addition of Michael Bennett this offseason, the Eagles have made Derek Barnett a starter in his second NFL season. 

Now, of course, that doesn’t matter as much with this defense and the rotation they implement, but it’s still saying something that Barnett — not Bennett or Chris Long — is starting games. 

Barnett had an OK rookie season, picking up five sacks in limited playing time, but the team is expecting a nice jump from him in Year 2. He had a pretty quiet summer, and aside from a few big plays in the run game, a pretty quiet first two games. 

But he did have a really nice game against the Colts on Sunday. And after the game, head coach Doug Pederson had some effusive praise for Barnett.

“It just seems like somewhere in the game, 96 is going to show up on make a play,” Pederson said after the game. “And he did that several times today.”

Then Pederson doubled down the next morning on WIP: “He’s all over the field. He’s a relentless player right now.” 

All of that is high praise from a head coach. So with that high praise in mind, I took a closer look at Barnett’s game as a pass rusher on Sunday. Doug’s right. He made some plays. 

We’ll start with what was really the play of the game, which means we’re jumping ahead to the fourth quarter for this one. It’s 4th-and-3 and the Colts are four yards away from the end zone and a lead with just 1:19 on the clock. The Eagles need a play. 

Barnett is at RDE and he’s going against Colts LT Le’Raven Clark. 

This is why the Eagles drafted Barnett: his bend. Barnett gets a nice jump off the ball and quickly bends around Clark, who was a little slow out of his stance. 

Clark probably should have held Barnett, mauled him on this play. That was his only chance to save a sack. Barnett uses that bend to get around Clark and get a straight shot on Luck. Luck desperately wants to deliver the football, but where? There’s nothing open. 

Now, Barnett has to do a better job of getting Luck to the ground here. I know the rules protecting the QB are in the back of everyone’s mind, but Luck is a big QB and if he’s able to stay on his feet and buy some time, it could have been deadly. 

Still, though, a big play from Barnett when the Eagles desperately needed one. This is his first full sack of the season. 

Now, that we have that full sack out of the way, here’s a play where he picked up a half, along with Fletcher Cox. 

It’s 2nd-and-11 just after the two-minute warning in the second quarter. Barnett just got back in the game and is at RDE. 

I like this play from Barnett because he gets off the ball quick and shows that he’s going to use his bend to try to get around Clark. Clark has to honor that; he’s expecting it. But instead of using finesse, Barnett is about to use a power move. 

Because Clark wasn’t expecting a bullrush, he doesn’t have great leverage and leaves too much space between him and Barnett. And Barnett is now about to put him on roller skates. 

Cox gets there at the same time and he goes through two blockers to do it. But this isn’t a review of Cox, who we already know is really damn good. This was a nice play from Barnett and a good sign that he was willing to switch up his pass rush here to catch the tackle off balance. 

We’re now in the third quarter and it’s 2nd-and-8. On the play before this, Barnett tackled the running back for a short, two-yard gain. It was a nice play, but I want to focus on Barnett’s game as a pass rusher. He’s been really solid against the run so far this year, but they drafted him to hit quarterbacks. 

Barnett is at RDE again and this time he has Haloti Ngata next to him. Ngata has been quiet through three games, but at times, does demand double teams. That’s going to happen here. The LG and LT double Ngata, which leaves Barnett a 1-on-1 vs. the TE. He better beat him. 

 

No games here. Barnett just tries to overpower the tight end and pushes him back. Honestly, it would be ideal for Barnett to overpower him even more, but this will do. 

Barnett helps collapse the pocket just quickly enough. Luck can’t step into this throw and tosses a floater out to T.Y. Hilton that should have been intercepted by Rodney McLeod. 

This next play is in the third quarter, right after Carson Wentz threw an interception to give the Colts the ball in the red zone. The Eagles’ red zone defense was huge on Sunday and this is one play that really helped. 


The jump Barnett got on this play was incredible. I’ve watched it about a thousand times and still can’t tell if he left a split-second too early. I don’t think he did. 

But because of that jump, combined with his unique bend, Clark has no choice but to hold him and drag him down to the ground. 

This play resulted in a 10-yard penalty and eventually the Colts settled for a 31-yard field goal to take a three-point lead. In a four-point win, this play helped keep four Colts points off the board. 

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Barnett is just 22 and he isn’t yet a dominant pass rusher. It’s too early to tell if he’ll ever get there. And playing against left tackles in this league isn’t easy. But we finally saw some really good things from Barnett against the Colts. 

It’s just one game, but it’s something really solid to build on for the rest of the season. 

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NFL free agency: Weighing pros and cons of a Darius Slay trade for Eagles

NFL free agency: Weighing pros and cons of a Darius Slay trade for Eagles

The Eagles desperately need some help at cornerback and one of the top ones in the game is reportedly available. 

Of course the Eagles should be interested. 

Schefter doesn’t list any teams in that report but it would make plenty of sense if the Eagles were one of them. In fact, during the 2019 season, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported the Eagles were interested in possibly trading for Slay before the trade deadline. That obviously didn’t happen. 

And now the three-time Pro Bowler is about to enter the final year of his contract with the Lions. 

Let’s weigh the pros and cons of a possible deal for the Eagles: 

Pros

• Slay is good and still in his prime. This is pretty obvious. The 6-0, 190-pound cornerback was an All-Pro in 2017 and has been a Pro Bowler in each of his last three seasons. And he’s been good for a long time. Since 2014, Slay has 19 interceptions, which ranks him fourth in the entire league behind Marcus Peters, Stephon Gilmore and Reggie Nelson.  

And Slay during his time in Detroit has traveled with their opponent’s best receiver a ton. That’s something Jim Schwartz hasn’t done in his time with the Eagles but would probably want to if he had a player of Slay’s caliber. And in a division with Amari Cooper, Darius Slayton and Terry McLaurin for the next few years, that would be nice to have. 

• The Eagles desperately need help at cornerback. Whether it comes through the draft, free agency or a trade, the Eagles need to revamp a position that has been a problem for years. They have struggled to sign cornerbacks as much as they’ve struggled to draft them. Slay would immediately be the best cornerback to suit up for the Eagles in a decade. Their last Pro Bowl caliber cornerback was Asante Samuel, who hasn’t played here since 2011. 

• The trade might not cost as much as you’d think. ESPN’s Mike Clay projected a Slay trade for the Eagles a few days ago. In that trade, he had the Eagles sending a third-round pick and Sidney Jones to Detroit. That sounds like a small haul for a perennial Pro Bowl player but Slay is entering the final year of his contract and if the Lions are going to move on, they probably want to get something for him. Lions new DC Cory Undlin seemed to like Jones when he was here and a change of scenery could help him live up to his potential. 

Plus, if the Eagles trade for Slay and can’t work out a long-term deal, they’d probably get a compensatory pick back for him. 

Cons 

• Slay is 29. The Eagles want to get younger and Slay is nearing 30. While he has been durable, playing at least 13 games in all seven of his NFL seasons, it’s fair to wonder how long he’ll be in his prime. So many of the Eagles’ best players are near or over 30 and adding Slay would mean adding another aging player to the core. 

• He wants a contract. Slay is a 29-year-old Pro Bowler entering the final year of his deal. He has a base salary of $10 million in 2019 but wants to get paid and he’s earned that. The highest-paid six cornerbacks in the NFL make over an average of $14 million per season, so to sign Slay to a long-term deal, it’ll take at least that. The highest-paid CB in the NFL is Xavien Howard at just over $15 million per season. Slay is three years older but that’s likely where his agent will want to start. 

• There might be more attractive options. Sure, it’s hard to imagine a better option than a three-time Pro Bowler who still appears to be in his prime, but there might be cheaper and younger options. There’s a deep free agent class this offseason with guys like Logan Ryan and Kendall Fuller and then there are plenty of solid options in the draft. One of those options might be more appealing to the Eagles but those possibilities might also keep the price (trade and contract) at a reasonable level for Slay. 

So …. 

The Eagles should absolutely be interested in Slay, especially if we’re talking about a trade like the one Clay put forward. For that trade price, it might even be worth getting Slay for one season and seeing what happens. I don’t know how Slay would feel about playing out the final season of his contract but if he’d show up, that might be the best move because the Eagles will have enough cap space to pay him $10 million in 2020. The Eagles could trade for Slay, draft a corner or two and then see where things stand heading into the 2021 season. Not saying this is a slam dunk, but we all know Howie Roseman isn’t shy to pick up the phone. And this time it’s warranted. 

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NFL mock draft 2020 roundup 4.0: Plenty of Eagles options at WR

NFL mock draft 2020 roundup 4.0: Plenty of Eagles options at WR

I didn’t plan on this but it’s not that surprising either. 

In this latest 2020 mock draft roundup, you’ll notice there’s a common theme for every Eagles’ pick at No. 21. They’re all receivers. All five. 

With the team’s situation at receiver, they clearly need to upgrade and it just so happens that this is a pretty good class for receivers. There are six or seven likely to go in the first round, so there’s a legitimate shot the Eagles will take one of them at No. 21. 

In the modern era, the Eagles have taken a receiver five times in the first round and four of them were taken around where they’ll pick this spring. 

2015: Nelson Agholor (20)
2009: Jeremy Maclin (19)
2001: Freddie Mitchell (25) 
1984: Kenny Jackson (4) 
1982: Mike Quick (20) 

Here are some options for the Eagles in a couple months: 

The Draft Network, Benjamin Solak

Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado 

What they said: It’s no secret that I’m a big Laviska Shenault fan, but the bigger secret in Philadelphia is that it may have exactly zero 2021 starting receivers from its current 2020 roster. With rookie JJ Arcega-Whiteside struggling to find the field, Alshon Jeffery looking like an eventual cap casualty once his figure goes down and DeSean Jackson yet to prove he’s back healthy, the receiving corps needs an overhaul something fierce.

Enter Shenault, who can line up anywhere and win with a simple route tree early given his dominant athletic ability and quality hands away from his frame. He makes a lot of sense as well if Jeffery and Jackson are healthy. Shenault can win as an underneath player whose best trait is his yards-after-catch ability. That’s where Shenault is truly dominant.

My take on Shenault: I agree with Ben that Shenault (6-2, 220) would make a ton of sense for the Eagles. His college production wasn’t off the charts but I think that will matter less to the Eagles this time around. And if Shenault goes to the combine and shows off his speed and athleticism, I will have seen enough. He’s a versatile player who could become a dynamic playmaker in the NFL, so he certainly checks off all the boxes. 

Solak has Shenault as the fourth receiver off the board after CeeDee Lamb (13th), Henry Ruggs III (15th), Jerry Jeudy (19th). Tee Higgins is still available here but I kind of agree that Shenault would be a more exciting pick. 

CBS Sports, Chris Trapasso

Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

Here’s what they said: Higgins is there for Philadelphia. Marvelous situation for Carson Wentz. Higgins has otherworldly ball skills and deceptive long speed.

My take on Higgins: About a month into mock draft season, it seems like Higgins has been the most common pick for the Eagles. At 6-4, 215, Higgins is a different player than Sheanault and is coming off back-to-back 59-catch seasons. Let’s see what Higgins does in the 40 at the combine — I think that number will matter. 

In this mock draft, Higgins is the fifth receiver selected after Lamb (8th), Ruggs III (11th), Jeudy (13th) and Shenault Jr. (18th). TCU’s Jalen Reagor goes at 24. 

CBS Sports, R.J. White

Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama 

Here’s what they said: Ruggs certainly could go much higher than this, but if he's available, he'll bring the dynamic presence the Eagles sorely lacked last year when DeSean Jackson, who is 33, missed most of last season with an injury.

My take on Ruggs: I fully expect Ruggs III (6-0, 190) to be long gone by the time the Eagles pick at 21 but there are surprises every year, so I won’t sit here and say there’s no chance. I do think that with the talent at receiver in this class, there will likely be more than two in the top 20. To put it simply with Ruggs: the Eagles need speed and no one has more speed than him. 

White has just two receivers — Lamb (12th) and Jeudy (13th) — going before Ruggs. 

The San Diego Union-Tribune, Eddie Brown

CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma

Here’s what they said: The Eagles wide receiver corps is in shambles. The inconsistent Nelson Agholor faces free agency while DeSean Jackson isn’t getting any younger (or healthier). Lamb has elite hands and ball skills (he’s special with the ball in the air). He can also contribute as a blocker. 

My take on Lamb: I think this is the first time I have seen Lamb (6-2, 189) mocked to the Eagles and that’s mostly because he’s usually off the board long before this. Same situation with Ruggs — I guess there’s an outside chance Lamb could be available, but I doubt it. 

For reference, the other four mock drafts we’re looking at today had Lamb off the board on average at 11.5. So his falling to 21 seems unlikely … at least for now. 

Yahoo Sports, Eric Edholm

Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State 

Here’s what they said: The need for (receiver) speed is real. I thought about a corner here, with the Eagles smelling a possible run at that position. But I believe they could be smitten with the vertical ability of Aiyuk, who also earned the apt nickname of “Ai-YAC.” 

My take on Aiyuk: It’s an interesting name and among the guys mocked to the Eagles, Aiyuk (6-1, 206) is probably the name you’re least familiar with. He has speed and is a big YAC guy, so he would certainly seem to fit a need. He has traits to possibly become a dynamic play-maker but 21 might be too early. 

Opinions are clearly split on him. Trapasso and White had him at 26 and 24, respectively, while Solak and Brown had Aiyuk in the second round at No. 54 and 56. 

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