Eagles

Derek Barnett shows off developing pass rush arsenal in strong NFL debut

Derek Barnett shows off developing pass rush arsenal in strong NFL debut

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Chris Long still remembers the first time he ever stepped foot onto an NFL field. 

"It was like cars moving by you on a highway," the 32-year-old vet said late Thursday night. "That's what it felt like to me. It was fast."

It didn't look quite that fast for Derek Barnett. 

The Eagles' first-round rookie got a chance to play in his first NFL game on Friday at Lambeau Field. And he didn't disappoint, picking up two sacks in the Eagles' 24-9 loss (see Instant Replay)

The first sack came with just under seven minutes to play in the second quarter. Barnett used a counter move and powered through Packers second-team left tackle Jason Spriggs, simply tossing him out of the way. 

Spriggs is 6-foot-6, 301 pounds. 

"It was nice to get one, honestly," Barnett said. "Anyway I can get there, it's nice to get there. Because [sacks are] so hard to come by." 

The buzz around Barnett coming out of Tennessee was about his incredible bend and speed pass rushing. During this training camp, however, he's been working hard to develop inside pass-rushing moves. 

That hard work paid off when he dropped Brett Hundley for an eight-yard loss. 

"It's a great thing to add to your arsenal," Long said. "For somebody like that, people are going to have to worry about his speed, it's just something that he's going to have to develop. Tonight was a big step."

A few minutes later, Barnett went to his bread and butter for his second sack. He sped around the edge to drop Hundley for a 12-yard loss. 

"I knew coming in they do quick game and stuff, so our coaches told us just keep on pushing, don't get down because the ball can come out quick," Barnett said. "Keep on grinding and eventually, you're going to get some." 

By the end of the game, Barnett had put together an impressive stat line: two sacks, four combined tackles, two QB hits and two tackles for loss. 

Barnett is one of three defensive ends on the team who were drafted in the first round. Long was the second pick in 2008; you already heard about his NFL debut. And Brandon Graham was the 13th pick in 2010. 

"I think what he did was what I wanted to do — get two sacks in the first game," Graham said. "And that's nice just to start it off right. It just feels good because he got a couple and it's going to carry over. He got a little bit of what the game speed is like."

Aside from facing Spriggs, Barnett also got a series against Packers Pro Bowl left tackle David Bakhtiari and held his own. Barnett said practicing against Jason Peters and Lane Johnson daily helped prepare him for Bakhtiari. 

"I thought [Barnett] really stepped up, and once he got his legs under him, he played well," head coach Doug Pederson said. "He played hard and it was exciting to see him around the quarterback."

It's just one game, but Barnett's NFL career got off to a good start on Thursday night.  

The cars weren't whizzing by him that fast. 

"It's fast. Faster than college," he said. "I just try to take it a snap at a time and just focus on that one snap and that one play. After that, clear to the next play."

Eagles mailbag: Moving Rasul Douglas, keeping Donnel Pumphrey

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Eagles mailbag: Moving Rasul Douglas, keeping Donnel Pumphrey

We split up your questions, so Part I of the mailbag ran yesterday (see story).

Just a reminder: training camp starts July 25 and the first practice will be July 26. 

Let’s not waste any more time. 

I’ve heard this a ton from people and it makes sense. Douglas seems to have what you’d look for in a safety and the Eagles value coverage skills in that position, something Douglas clearly has. So I see that as a possibility, but the Eagles have seemed hesitant to move him or even to really cross-train him. For me, the time to do it would have been during the OTAs and minicamp. Why not slide him back there for a few days to see how he handles it? That’s how I would have handled it. Without any extended time at safety in the spring, it’s hard for me to envision real cross-training in the summer. Eventually, though, you’re right; this makes sense. 

I don’t think so. Pumphrey looked a little better this spring, but he better have a great training camp. Right now, I have the Eagles keeping four running backs: Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement, Matt Jones. If they keep five, Pump has a real chance; he’d just need to beat out Wendell Smallwood for that final spot. I think he has a decent chance, but I haven’t seen enough to give him a roster spot. He’s a player I’ll be watching extremely close at training camp. 

I’ll preface this by saying I’m no punter expert, but Cameron Johnston looks pretty solid to me. He was a really good punter at Ohio State and seemed to boot the ball pretty well this spring. The Eagles were comfortable enough with him to move on from Donnie Jones. 

To answer the second part, he will be the holder for Jake Elliott. The two have been working together this spring. While Johnston held last summer, Elliott was still in Cincinnati. They have to gel. 

In my latest 53-man roster projection, I actually don’t have Tre Sullivan in there. Instead, I went with Corey Graham, who is still on the street. I agree with you that in most situations going with the younger guy is the move, but not with this team. Not this year. Graham was such an important part of last year’s team. And because the Eagles have a legitimate shot to repeat, I’d try to bring him back. The Eagles have about $6 million in cap space. Get it done. 

Hi, John. Mango. Always mango.

More on the Eagles

• Foles is a legend, but Eagles still need Wentz

• Will Derek Barnett really compete to start in 2018?

• A meeting with Chip Kelly brought Press Taylor to Eagles

• On his 35th birthday, a look at upcoming milestones for Sproles

• A progress report for Eagles' draft picks after spring practices 

Eagles Mailbag: Biggest concern on 2018 roster

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Eagles Mailbag: Biggest concern on 2018 roster

We’ve officially reached the only sort of dead period on the NFL calendar. The Eagles are through their spring practices and won’t be back at the NovaCare Complex until July 25 for the start of training camp. 

That sounds far away, but it’ll be here before you know it. 

You guys were great and gave me a ton of questions, so I’ll answer half today and half Sunday. Let’s go: 

I’m tempted to say defensive tackle just for health concerns surrounding Tim Jernigan, but I have to answer linebacker. Jordan Hicks appears to be healthy after tearing his Achilles last year, but as good as he is when healthy, it’s just tough to count on him. Two years ago, he was able to play a full season and things were looking good, but then he suffered another serious injury. If Hicks and Bradham stay healthy, linebackers aren’t a concern. The Eagles will have either Kamu Grugier-Hill, Nate Gerry or Corey Nelson take the weakside spot on base downs and they’ll be OK. 

But without Mychal Kendricks, it’s fair to be concerned about their depth at the position, especially after veteran pickup Paul Worrilow was already lost for the year. Kendricks came up huge last year as a fill-in; not sure the Eagles have that kind of depth this year. 

Not sure yet. What I can tell you about De’Vante Bausby is that he was impressive this spring and the coaching staff seems to love him. I remain very, very skeptical that he’s good enough to keep Sidney Jones off the field. With that said, I do think he’s talented enough to make the 53-man roster. We’ll get a better sense at camp when the pads go on, but I have him penciled in to make the team. 

Yes on both. The Nate Sudfeld hype is real. In our first extended looks at the young quarterback, he’s been incredibly impressive. It’s starting to make sense why the Eagles snatched him from Washington and then blocked the Colts from signing him last season. They kept him on the 53 in the second half of last year, so they’re completely prepared to keep three QBs on this year’s roster if Foles is still on the team. 

This is going to be the summer of Nate Sudfeld. We’re going to see him play a ton in those preseason games and that will let us know if he’s ready to be QB2 behind Carson Wentz. But the fact that the Eagles didn’t bring in a more experienced veteran after Wentz went down last year pretty much tells you all you need to know about what the Eagles think of him. 

We tried that. Didn’t work out well. We’re up for suggestions. 

You have no idea how out of water this fish is. This is like taking a fish from the ocean and dropping it in Kansas. 

How about Portugal? I’ll go with them because of Ronaldo.