Derek Barnett

Roob's 10 observations: Competition at Eagles training camp, insane QB stats and more

Roob's 10 observations: Competition at Eagles training camp, insane QB stats and more

Dallas Goedert, Andy Harmon, Motorhead, Nate Gerry, a crazy Nick Foles stat, a crazier Carson Wentz stat and obsessing over the "Philly Special."

It's a Wednesday edition of Roob's 10 random Eagles observations just for you! 

1. For a team coming off a Super Bowl championship, the Eagles have done a nice job creating competition in a lot of spots this summer, and training camp has certainly felt more like a competition than any sort of celebration of what happened six months ago in Minneapolis. Three guys who’ve been battling this summer I’m especially looking forward to seeing Thursday night in the preseason opener against the Steelers are Donnel Pumphrey, Gerry and Sidney Jones, who were all 2017 draft picks. Pumphrey literally looks like a different person. But can he carry it over to the games? Gerry is on track to replace Mychal Kendricks at weakside linebacker and has had a good camp, but Kamu Grugier-Hill, while not as stout at the point of attack, looks like a real playmaker. And Jones has done nothing to make me think he’s not going to be a star. Can’t wait to see those guys Thursday night.

2. One thing about Gerry — he’s really fighting history when it comes to late-round linebackers making an impact. The Eagles have had some late-round linebackers start — guys like seventh-round picks Moise Fokou and Jamar Chaney, sixth-round pick Brian Rolle and fifth-round pick Omar Gaither — but none of them were very good. Honestly, the last linebacker the Eagles drafted in the fifth round or later who has been an above average player was Seth Joyner, an eighth-round pick in 1986 and an all-time great. Gerry’s not Joyner, but he’s not Fokou either. 

3. Standing in the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Friday staring at the "Philly Special" football behind a glass case, I couldn’t stop thinking … “Doug Pederson called a trick play where an undrafted rookie running back flipped the ball to an undrafted backup tight end who threw a pass to the backup quarterback … in the end zone … in a Super Bowl … on fourth down … just before halftime … against Bill Belichick’s defense.” I still don’t know if I’ll ever grasp just how insane that really is. 

4. I’m not sure how this is possible, but no Eagles quarterback has ever thrown 25 or more touchdown passes in consecutive seasons. Among the 53 NFL QBs who have? Brian Sipe, Ken O’Brien and Aaron Brooks.

5. I try not to get too carried away by rookies at training camp, but my goodness, Goedert looks scary good. 

6. This is insane: Wentz in his last nine games last year averaged 248 passing yards, three TDs, 60 percent accuracy and 0.6 interceptions per game. The last Eagles quarterback before Wentz with two consecutive games with 248 yards, three TDs, 60 percent accuracy and one or fewer interceptions? Would you believe Randall Cunningham against the Cards and Broncos in September of 1992? Wentz averaged that over nine games.

7. There are 28 quarterbacks in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Only six of them have had more career playoff games with a passer rating of at least 100 than Foles (Joe Montana, Brett Favre, Troy Aikman, John Elway, Dan Marino and Steve Young).

8. I’ll be surprised if Corey Clement doesn’t catch 50 passes this year.

9. Here’s another weird one: Trent Cole, a fifth-round pick in 2005, is the only player the Eagles have drafted in the last 25 years with a 10-sack season as an Eagle. Before Cole, you have to go back to 1991 sixth-round pick Harmon. Matter of fact, the last player the Eagles drafted in the first four rounds to record a double-digit sack season was 1987 first-round pick Jerome Brown! That ends now. I’ve got Derek Barnett down for 13½.

10. Hey, how many people think I should choose the music at the Linc during Eagles games? Forget the vapid dance-pop they play now. This is football, not a 12-year-old's bowling party. There's nothing worse than watching the defense run on the field to that "I drove my car into a bridge" song. You really think that's going to intimidate the Redskins? We'll go Iron Maiden, Scorpions, Motorhead, Pantera, Megadeth, Metallica, Uriah Heep and Ozzy. If you agree, contact the Eagles at 1 NovaCare Way, Philadelphia, Pa., 19145.

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5 possible breakout candidates for Eagles in 2018

5 possible breakout candidates for Eagles in 2018

In the 2017 Super Bowl season, Nelson Agholor went from first-round bust to legitimate dangerous weapon. 

There’s no question that he was the breakout performer from the 2017 season, although there were plenty of other candidates. What Agholor did last season, catching 62 passes for 768 yards and eight touchdowns, was remarkable. 

With Agholor’s performance last year in mind, let’s take a look ahead at five candidates to have a breakout season in 2018: 

Dallas Goedert
He’s a rookie tight end in a system that’s incredibly demanding on tight ends, he’s behind a Pro Bowler on the depth chart and he’s coming from the FCS. That doesn’t sound like a promising combination for picking a breakout player. But Goedert could end up being an impact player. 

While he went to South Dakota State, he played in a complex college offense. And even though he’s behind Zach Ertz on the depth chart, there’s still going to be plenty of opportunity with Trey Burton and Brent Celek gone. There might be a learning curve, but Goedert has a chance to make an impact immediately, especially in the red zone, where his athleticism ought to take over (see story)

Derek Barnett
Entering his second season, Barnett still appears to have the chance to be special. He turned in a five-sack rookie season and has the ability to add more to that. Barnett might be penciled in behind Brandon Graham and Michael Bennett on the depth chart, but defensive line coach Chris Wilson said earlier this season that he expects Barnett to compete for a starting gig. That’s pretty high praise, thinking he could knock off Pro Bowl-caliber starters. 

What really impressed Wilson about Barnett is that he kept getting better as an all-around player last year, even as he played through a sports hernia. Barnett can be a three-down player in the NFL because he has the ability to pass-rush and stuff the run, which both are very important in Jim Schwartz’s defense. 

Sidney Jones 
Howie Roseman during the draft said he kind of viewed Jones as a part of this year’s draft class after the talented corner basically red-shirted last season coming off an Achilles tear. Jones doesn’t consider himself a rookie, though. He’s been in the Eagles’ building for over a year and has a really good grasp of the defense and the corner position in the defense. 

Even if Jones doesn’t become the Eagles’ slot cornerback, I don’t think they can keep him off the field. Barring injury, I think he’s going to play a lot in 2018 and has a chance to show people why he would have been a first-round pick last spring. 

Mack Hollins
The problem for Hollins might be less about ability and more about opportunity. Because he’s behind Alshon Jeffery, Mike Wallace and Agholor on the depth chart and Markus Wheaton and Shelton Gibson could possibly steal snaps from him. But the Eagles like Hollins, who had just 16 catches and one touchdown during his rookie season. In last year’s playoffs, Hollins had just one catch for nine yards. 

So why might he have a chance to break out? Well, to start, Hollins does have some big-play ability. That’s part of why the Eagles drafted him and he’s still the team’s fourth receiver. The other reason is that Doug Pederson hired his former college position coach, Gunter Brewer, to coach Eagles receivers. That’s a two-sided argument. First, having Brewer around should help Hollins. Second, it might give some idea of how much the Eagles like the second-year wideout. 

Kamu Grugier-Hill 
This will be Grugier-Hill’s third season with the Eagles after having played just 86 defensive snaps over his first two seasons in the NFL. But for now, he appears to be in the lead to take the weakside linebacker spot vacated by Mychal Kendricks. Remember, the team will also be without Nigel Bradham in the opener, giving Grugier-Hill another possible chance.

And there’s plenty to like about Grugier-Hill. The Hawaiian special teamer is a really impressive athlete and has really good coverage ability for a linebacker, having played safety at Eastern Illinois. The Eagles really like his athleticism and it might be time to see it show on defense, not just special teams. 

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

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AP Images

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. 

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