Tim Jernigan might help Eagles’ DTs move past Spinal Tap drummer territory

Tim Jernigan might help Eagles’ DTs move past Spinal Tap drummer territory

When asked about Tim Jernigan on Monday, Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz began talking about the defensive tackle position as a whole and couldn’t help himself.

He tossed in a Spinal Tap reference.

“A lot has been made of our linebacker situation or our corner situation,” Schwartz said, “but defensive tackle … there's some drummers from Spinal Tap that would rather be a drummer for Spinal Tap than — you guys got that one?”

If you don’t understand that reference about the fictional band, it’s OK. Schwartz said his players don’t understand his references like that either.

Just know that Spinal Tap went through a lot of drummers, who all met their untimely demises. Likewise, the Eagles have gone through plenty of defensive tackles this season — and it wasn’t supposed to be like that.

Finally, in the Bears game before the bye week, Tim Jernigan returned after missing six straight games with a foot injury. He played just 16 snaps, but it was a start and a small step back to some level of normalcy at the position next to Fletcher Cox.

“He didn't play a ton, and it was probably unrealistic to think he was going to play more than that,” Schwartz said, “but it was a good start for him and we'll just see where that goes week-to-week.

“I think that it will be nice to have him out there for significant reps over the course of the year, but we just have to take it as it goes.”

Getting Jernigan back could be huge down the stretch, but it’s hard to image the Eagles can really rely on his ability to stay healthy; he’s struggled with that. Still, getting a healthy Jernigan back for the final seven-game playoff push could go a long way to help salvage some of the depth they were originally supposed to have.

To steal a phrase from Schwartz, the Eagles have been “star-crossed” at the defensive tackle position this year.

They came into the 2019 season with Cox, Jernigan, Malik Jackson and Hassan Ridgeway. Sure, the Eagles lost some depth from 2018 at defensive end, but this depth was supposed to make up for that.

Then Jackson suffered a season-ending foot injury in Week 1.

Then Jernigan hurt his foot in Week 2.

Then Ridgeway went on IR with an ankle injury suffered in Week 7.

“Going into the season, really felt good about Malik and Timmy and Ridge and all of a sudden we're looking at none of those three,” Schwartz said. “Took a little while to get some new guys in there and solidify things. A little bit like some of those other guys, getting those guys back on the field, there's nothing like having those contributors back on the field.”

While they waited for Jernigan to get healthy, the Eagles had Akeem Spence for six games before cutting him. They played Bruce Hector, Anthony Rush and Albert Huggins — all undrafted players in their first or second seasons. It’s been a rotating cast of mediocre players next to Cox, who has come on strong recently, but faces double teams at an alarming rate.

At the very least, Jernigan can beat an occasional 1-on-1 and is stout against the run on first and second downs. A healthy Jernigan next to a finally healthy and resurgent Cox sounds pretty good.

“I think that it will be nice to have [Jernigan] out there for significant reps over the course of the year,” Schwartz said, “but we just have to take it as it goes.”

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Derek Barnett ‘hyper-focused’ as he enters crucial Year 4

Derek Barnett ‘hyper-focused’ as he enters crucial Year 4

This will be a big season for Derek Barnett. 

He knows that. Heck, everyone knows that. It’s Year 4 for Barnett, which means he’s in the final year of his rookie contract. And it’s time for him to finally prove he can play like a 1st-round pick. 

Barnett, 24, has been showing a “sharp focus” all offseason, according to DL coach Matt Burke. 

“I think seeing him from February through now, I think he’s hyper-focused,” Burke said. “He’s had a great offseason. I think he’s really locked in on wanting to be an elite player. I’m really excited to get this going on the field here and get this developed a little bit. He’s a guy I’m really excited to get the chance to keep working with.”

It’s hard to believe that the Eagles’ former 1st-round pick is entering his fourth NFL season, but here we are. During his first three years in the NFL, Barnett has been serviceable but certainly hasn’t lived up to being the No. 14 pick in the draft. 

After being a rotational player as a rookie, Barnett has been a starter in each of the last two seasons. He was on his way to a double-digit sack season in 2018 but hurt his shoulder and needed surgery, ending his season after just six games. 

In 2019, Barnett played and started 14 games but again needed to fight through injuries. He finished with a career-high 6 1/2 sacks. It was his best season to date, but after showing break-out potential in 2018, he didn’t do that in a near-full season in 2019.  

2017: 15 games, 0 starts, 5 sacks, 16 QB hits, 8 TFL 
2018: 6 games, 6 starts, 2.5 sacks, 11 QB hits, 5 TFL 
2019: 14 games, 14 starts, 6.5 sacks, 22 QB hits, 10 TFL 

In three NFL seasons, Barnett has 14 sacks. There are five players from his draft class who have more. 

Again, Barnett has been a serviceable player, but he hasn’t blossomed into the kind of star the Eagles hoped he’d be. 

The Eagles have control of Barnett for the 2021 season after picking up his fifth-year option, but they’re not tied to that either; it’s guaranteed for injury only. That fifth-year option is worth around $10 million, so it’s hard to envision the Eagles’ paying that in a salary cap crunch year for the player Barnett has been. 

If the Eagles decide to pay Barnett the $10 million in 2021, that would be a great sign, because it would mean he had a good 2020 season. 

But it seems more likely, at least at this point, that the Eagles either rescind the fifth-year option and let Barnett walk or they sign him to a long-term deal that would lessen his cap hit in 2021. 

His coaches seem to love him, but Barnett has to start matching that love with his production. 

“I mean, he’s one of the toughest guys on the team,” Burke said. “I think anyone would vouch for that. What we’ve seen from Derek is he’s had a really sharp focus this offseason. Like really hyper-focused on getting everything down right.”

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Ranking every coach in the Andy Reid coaching tree, from 1 to 10

Ranking every coach in the Andy Reid coaching tree, from 1 to 10

I came across an NFL Coach of the Year list the other day and noticed a few familiar names.

Ron Rivera. John Harbaugh. Matt Nagy. 

Doug Pederson’s name was notably missing. But he’s got a Lombardi Trophy, which kind of makes up for the ridiculous Sean McVay snub in 2017.

But seeing all those names got me thinking about the Andy Reid coaching tree.

Who’s been the most successful of his former assistant coaches?  Who’s been the least successful?

Reid has seen 10 of his former Eagles assistants go on to become assistant coaches, and five of them are currently head coaches. It’s a remarkable part of his legacy.

Here’s a look at all 10, from best to worst:

1. John Harbaugh

With Eagles: Special teams coach 1998-2006; Secondary coach 2007
Head coach of Ravens: 2008-2020: 118-74 career record, 10-7 playoffs, 1-0 Super Bowl

Accomplishments: Ravens have reached the playoffs eight of his 12 years and had just one losing season under Harbaugh. His .615 winning percentage is 6th-highest among active head coaches, and his 10 postseason wins are tied for 14th-most in NFL history. Named NFL Coach of the Year for the first time last year.

Interesting Andy Reid connection: Harbaugh’s quarterbacks coach since 2018 is James Urban, who Reid hired in 2004 as an entry-level coaching assistant.

Where is he now? Beginning 13th year as head coach of the Ravens.

2. Doug Pederson

With Eagles: Offensive quality control 2009-2010; Quarterbacks coach 2011-2012
Head coach of Eagles 2016-2020: 38-26, 4-2 playoffs, 1-0 Super Bowl

Accomplishments: Won Super Bowl in second season and has had Eagle in playoffs in each of last three seasons. Won NFC East in 2017 and 2019. His .594 career winning percentage is highest in franchise history, just ahead of Greasy Neale’s .590 and Reid’s .583.

Interesting Andy Reid connection: Pederson this year hired Marty Mornhinweg, who coached under Reid from 2003 to 2012 with the Eagles

Where is he now? Beginning 5th year as head coach of the Eagles.

3. Ron Rivera 

With Eagles: Linebackers coach 1999-2003
Head coach of Panthers 2011-2019: 76-63-1, 3-4 playoffs, 0-1 Super Bowl
Head coach of Washington 2020: 0-0

Accomplishments: Got Panthers to playoffs in four of his nine seasons and was named Coach of the Year in 2015, when Panthers went 15-1 and beat Cards in NFC Championship Game before losing to Broncos in Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, Calif. Named NFL Coach of the Year in 2013 and 2015.

Interesting Andy Reid connection: Rivera’s defensive coordinator his first six years with the Panthers was Sean McDermott, who he coached with from 1999 through 2003 under Reid.

Where is he now? Beginning 1st year as head coach of the Washington NFL Team. 

4. Sean McDermott

With Eagles: Scouting coordinator 1999-2000; Assistant to the head coach 2001; Defensive quality control 2002-2003; Assistant secondary coach 2004-2006; Secondary coach 2007; Linebackers coach 2008; Defensive coordinator 2009-2010
Head coach of Bills 2017-2020: 25-23, 0-2 playoffs

Accomplishments: Took over a franchise that hadn’t reached the postseason in 17 years and in his first season went 9-7, losing a wild-card game 10-3 to Jaguars. This past year, he guided the Bills to their first 10-win season since 1999 and became the first Bills coach to reach the playoffs twice since Wade Phillips in the 1990s.

Interesting Andy Reid connection: McDermott’s wide receivers coach is Chad Hall, who played for Reid with the Eagles from 2010 through 2012.

Where is he now? McDermott is beginning 4th year as head coach of the Bills.

5. Brad Childress

With Eagles: Quarterbacks coach 1999-2001; Offensive coordinator 2002-2005
Head coach of the the Vikings 2006-2010: 39-35, 1-2 playoffs

Accomplishments: Won NFC North in 2008 and 2009, the first time the Vikings won their division in consecutive years since 1977 and 1978. The 2009 team beat the Cowboys 34-3 to reach the NFC Championship Game, where they lost 31-28 to the Saints in overtime. 

Interesting Andy Reid connection: Childress’s running backs coach his entire stay in Minnesota was Eric Bienemy, who played for the Eagles in 1999, the first year for Reid and Childress with the Eagles, and is now Reid’s offensive coordinator.

Where is he now? Childress retired after spending 2019 as Matt Nagy’s senior offensive assistant with the Bears.

6. Matt Nagy  

With Eagles: Coaching intern 2008-2009; Coaching assistant 2010; Offensive quality control 2011-12
Head coach of Bears 2018-2020: 20-12, 0-1 in playoffs

Accomplishments: The 2018 Bears finished with a 9-1 run to win NFC North at 12-4 in Nagy’s first season and he became the first Bears playoff team to reach the postseason in eight years. Became the first Bears coach to reach the postseason in his first year since Paddy Driscoll in 1956 and was named NFL Coach of the Year. The Bears lost 16-15 to the Eagles in a home wild-card game. Started 2019 3-1 before going 4-7 the rest of the way. 

Interesting Andy Reid connection: Nagy’s offensive line coach is Juan Castillo, who was Reid’s offensive line coach and defensive coordinator (and has also worked under Harbaugh and McDermott).

Where is he now? Beginning 3rd year as head coach of the Bears. 

7. Leslie Frazier 

With Eagles: Secondary coach 1999-2002
Head coach of Vikings 2010-2013: 21-32-1, 0-1 playoffs

Accomplishments: Replaced Childress when he was fired 10 games into the 2010 season. The Vikings reached the playoffs once in his three full seasons, going 10-6 in 2012 and finishing second in NFC North before losing to the Packers 24-10 in a wild-card game at Lambeau.

Interesting Andy Reid connection: Childress hired Frazier, who he had worked with under Reid for four years, as his defensive coordinator with the Vikings in 2007. Frazier eventually replaced Childress 10 weeks into the 2010 season.

Where is he now? Beginning 4th year as Bills’ defensive coordinator under McDermott.

8. Todd Bowles 

With Eagles: Secondary coach 2012 [Week 1 through Week 6]; Defensive coordinator 2012 [Week 7 through Week 17]
Head coach of the Jets 2015-2018: 26-41

Accomplishments: Jets’ 10 wins in 2015 matched most in franchise history by a first-year coach and ranked No. 4 in NFL in defense. But Jets then won just 14 games over the next three years, the first time they had won five or fewer games in three straight seasons since 1975 through 1977.

Interesting Andy Reid connection: When Bowles was hired as the Cards’ defensive coordinator in 2013, his linebackers coach was Mike Caldwell, who played for Reid from 1999 through 2001 and coached under Reid in 2011 and 2012.

Where is he now? Beginning 2nd year as Buccaneers’ defensive coordinator under Bruce Arians, who was his coach at Temple.

9. Pat Shurmur 

With Eagles: Tight ends / offensive assistant 1999-2001; Quarterbacks 2002-2008; Offensive coordinator 2013-2015; Interim head coach [Week 17 2013]
Head coach of the Browns 2011-2012: 9-23
Head coach of the Giants 2018-2019: 9-23

Accomplishments: Shurmur has the unique distinction of posting the exact same record as head coach of two different franchises. His .292 career winning percentage is 7th-worst in NFL history.

Interesting Andy Reid connection: Shurmur was hired in Cleveland by Mike Holmgren, who Reid coached under with the Packers.

Where is he now? Beginning 1st year as Broncos’ offensive coordinator under Vic Fangio.

10. Steve Spagnuolo

With Eagles: Defensive assistant quality control 1999-2000; Secondary coach 2001-2003; Linebackers coach 2004-2006
Head coach of the Rams 2009-2011: 11-41
Interim head coach of the Giants 2017: 1-3

Accomplishments: Spags went 1-15 in his first year with the Rams and 2-14 in his third year. In between the Rams were 7-9, giving him a career .212 winning percentage, 3rd-worst in NFL history. The Rams have been around 79 years, and Spags is responsible for two of their three-worst seasons.

Interesting Andy Reid connection: Spags’ offensive coordinator with the Rams was Shurmur.

Where is he now? Beginning 2nd year as Chiefs’ defensive coordinator under Reid.