Will Derek Barnett really compete to start for Eagles in 2018?

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Will Derek Barnett really compete to start for Eagles in 2018?

Last week, Eagles defensive line coach Chris Wilson was in the middle of singing Derek Barnett’s praises, when he eventually gave an answer that piqued my interest. Wilson was saying Barnett had a great offseason after already seeing significant growth during his rookie season, aided by an increased football IQ. 

So after hearing all that, I threw an obvious question Wilson’s way: What’s fair to expect from Barnett in Year 2? 

And Wilson’s answer was interesting. 

“You’d like to see him compete as a starter,” he said. “And that’s what it is. You want to see him compete as an every-down player and that’s the expectation. And I think that’s the expectation for any second-year guys, especially guys that are drafted at his status. I believe he has the ability to be a three-down guy and that’s what we’re looking for.”

The answer isn’t interesting because of Barnett. He showed enough promise last season to think that he can live up to being a first-round pick. He showed star potential. 

It’s interesting because there appear to be barriers in Barnett’s path to becoming a starter. They’re named Brandon Graham and Michael Bennett. But during the spring, Graham didn’t participate after ankle surgery and Bennett didn’t show up until the mandatory minicamp. 

“I haven’t set starters. I really haven’t,” Wilson said. “I know that’s a cliche for coaches, but you know, this has been voluntary and I just coach the guys who are here. The biggest thing that I look for is who’s improving. Nobody’s got a locked-in [job].”

Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter who is on the field at the start of games for the Eagles because they rotate so much. The difference is that the guys on the field at the start are trusted to stop the run as much as they are to rush the passer. We saw that from Graham and Vinny Curry last year. Becoming a complete player is the next step for Barnett. 

Because defensive ends — fairly or not — are always judged by sacks, let's take a look at that area. Barnett had five as a rookie, which is a pretty solid number. It’s the highest total an Eagles rookie has had since Fletcher Cox picked up 5 1/2 in 2012. 

While it’s fair to expect growth from players in their second season, of the seven players who had at least five sacks as rookies in 2016, just two of them had more sacks in Year 2 in 2017. 

Sack numbers aside, Barnett should improve in his own Year 2. For starters, he won’t be dealing with a sports hernia that required offseason surgery. For what it’s worth, Wilson said if the injury was bothering Barnett, he didn’t know. 

But the area where Wilson seemed most pleased with Barnett’s growth was his strength. Barnett worked hard since the Super Bowl to improve his overall strength and to develop a good power move. Coming out of college, he was known more as a finesse player, respected for his incredible bend. 

Now, he’s working to get more powerful, which would certainly make him a much more viable option to be a starter, barriers or not. 

More on the Eagles

John Clark is keeping busy with music, exercise and 'Curb'

John Clark is keeping busy with music, exercise and 'Curb'

During this time of self-quarantine, we’re checking in with those in the Philly sports world to see How They’re Keeping Busy. Next up, NBC Sports Philadelphia airport specialist, John Clark.

What are you doing to keep busy during these strange times without live sports?

I am making sure to get outside every day and get some sort of exercise like running, biking, and tennis -- keeping plenty of physical distancing. Thank goodness the weather has been pretty good here. Places like Chicago, it’s tough to get outside when it’s in the 20s and 30s.

How are you getting your sports fill?

I am getting my sports fill right now covering NFL free agency and the Eagles moves. And tracking down the new Eagles players and doing interviews with them over the zoom app. It’s really hard for me to watch old games, except for the Eagles Super Bowl win. Part of sports for me is not knowing what’s going to happen. The suspense of that is amazing. My parents tape Villanova games and other sports and watch them sometimes a day later. I just can’t do that! And I would have heard what happened before it’s too late.

Tip(s) for everyone stuck at home who may be stressed?

Listen to plenty of music, the artists and songs that make you feel good. I have also tried to reach out to one person a day that I haven’t talked to in a long time that I am friends with or used to be friends with and we’ve lost touch.

Specific content you’d recommend to others? Anything you’re binging/reading/listening to?

If you want to laugh, I would suggest Curb Your Enthusiasm. And I watch Impractical Jokers a lot and the immature silly humor makes me laugh every time. Netflix standup comedy specials can give you a good laugh too. I think it’s also cool to go back and watch some concerts you have been to on YouTube or listening to them on Sirius radio, it brings you back to such a great night. Music always makes me think of good memories.

Is there a local business or charity you’re supporting during these tough times?

I am going to pick up food a lot because I wanna support restaurants and businesses that need it right now. I have friends who are restaurant owners who have laid off a lot of their staff and been forced to close down. Times are so tough for these businesses and I feel we need to support them. And I’m trying to leave bigger tips when picking up food.


How the lengthy delay could hurt or help Flyers, Sixers, Phillies, Eagles

How the lengthy delay could hurt or help Flyers, Sixers, Phillies, Eagles

There will be sports again. I am confident of that. When that will happen and what it will look like remains to be seen. Will we jump right to the playoffs in the NHL and NBA or will they attempt to play regular season games? How many games will MLB look to play and how far are they willing to extend the season into late fall or even winter?  

We don’t know what we don’t know. But that doesn’t mean authentic fans can’t prepare right now. And we’re here to help. Here’s a prepared excuse for each of the Philadelphia sports teams if they come up short when play resumes. We’ll also give you a denial that the break was beneficial if each team performs especially well. 

Potential Excuse: No team was hotter than the Flyers before the NHL postponed its season. So, it goes to reason that no team was hurt more by hitting the pause button. In a traditional season, the Flyers would have steamrolled their opponents just like they were doing in January, February, and early March. But then you lose momentum and a young team has to deal with a completely unique situation. Another Cup taken from us. 
Argument If Things Go Well: The Flyers were already rolling before the break. It really speaks to the mindset instilled by Chuck Fletcher and Alain Vigneault that nothing could derail this juggernaut. Looks like a dynasty in the works. 

Potential Excuse: This Sixers team needs Joel Embiid going at 100 percent and it’s impossible for a man that size to be at top conditioning with that long of a break. It’s hard to think of a player in all of sports more negatively impacted by a months-long break than Embiid. It’s just not fair to the Sixers at all. 
Argument If Things Go Well: Everybody knew the Sixers didn’t care about the regular season this year. It was all about the playoffs. So it didn’t matter if it started in April or August, this team was going to bring it when it mattered. That’s why you sign a veteran like an Al Horford. For winning time. 

Potential Excuse: Starting pitching was always going to be the key. Aaron Nola was primed to win the Cy Young. Zach Wheeler was going to provide the best 1-2 punch in the National League. But a condensed schedule with a lack of training time diminished the Phillies’ greatest strength. MLB should have done a full spring training after the break and played 162 games, into the new year, if needed. 
Argument If Things Go Well: 2020 was always going to be better because of Joe Girardi. Gabe Kapler cost them like 20 games last season. Go back. Count them. But Girardi is a winner. He’s won everywhere he’s been. Plus, he’s Philly tough. Blue collar. 

Potential Excuse: No team was banking on new faces and a new structure more than the Eagles. The offensive coaching staff was overhauled. They needed all of the prep time they could get. The draft wasn’t even legit this year because there weren't enough in-person meetings. Everyone knows the game tape lies. You have to get to know a guy to see how he fits, especially inPhiladelphia. It’s not even a real season if you don’t have a full mini-camp, in my opinion. 
Argument If It Goes Well: Football wasn’t even impacted that much. We won the division last year regardless. Then we turned the team over to Carson Wentz and made him the top leadership voice. Carson’s always been a great leader. Everybody knows that. We just had to make sure his voice and Doug’s voice were the only ones being heard. I don’t think it’s crazy to say Carson might win the next 3-5 MVPs.