Josh Sweat didn’t have a celebration planned and it showed.
After the Eagles’ second-year defensive end ran through Jets QB Luke Falk last week for his first-career NFL sack, he extended his arms and ran down the field with his 84-inch wingspan like a real jet. Then he pumped his fists. Then he caught teammates who jumped into him with hugs.
The whole thing was all just a little disjointed.
Really, though, it was a release of pure emotion after Sweat picked up his first NFL sack, one that had been eluding him for too long.
“For a while, I thought I was cursed, honestly,” Sweat said this week. “Because I was hitting [quarterbacks], but they were just getting rid of it. I felt like I should have had that a couple weeks ago.
“But I was obviously excited. I didn’t even know how to celebrate.”
Sweat might want to practice those celebrations. Because he’s hoping the sacks start rolling in now.
With the absences of Malik Jackson and Tim Jernigan from the middle of the Eagles’ defensive line, Jim Schwartz has been using Brandon Graham more frequently inside on third downs. That means extended reps for Sweat. Even though he didn’t pick up his first sack until Sunday, he’s been playing well.
A fourth-round pick out of Florida State last season, Sweat played just 68 defensive snaps snaps in nine games during his rookie year. Through five games this season, Sweat has played 95 defensive snaps and has played more than Vinny Curry in three of five games.
Now that Sweat has his first sack out of the way, Graham thinks there will be more to follow.
“Once you get one, man, that’s when the hunger starts,” Graham said. “You want some more and you want some more and you want to figure out how can I get it? With [Sweat] having that mindset and him wanting to keep having that same feeling of sacking the quarterback, he knows he has to keep working on his technique and stay technically sound. When his name is called, win his 1-on-1.”
On Sunday, Sweat thought he was going to get a sack earlier in the game, but Falk got rid of the football on a play Sweat thought should have been grounding. So Sweat didn’t pick up his sack until the fourth quarter.
“I saw everyone getting sacks and I was like, ‘I can’t be the only one not getting one,’” Sweat said. “I said, double team or not, I set him up to make it look like I was going upfield and just came right underneath him. I just ran. I literally ran to the other side to go get him. I was not going to be denied.”
Back in August, when I asked a bunch of Eagles veterans which player they most wanted to see in game action, Pro Bowl guard Brandon Brooks said Sweat’s name without hesitation. See, Sweat came to training camp about 20 pounds heavier than he was last season, but hadn’t lost his quickness.
A bunch of his teammates, especially the guys who had to block him this summer, still expect big things from Sweat. And at 6-5, 265 and with his length, Sweat certainly looks the part even more now with the added weight than he did coming out of college.
There was palpable buzz around Sweat this spring and summer. Even though his role is still limited, the Eagles would certainly love to get consistent production from Sweat the rest of this season.
“To a lot of people, he’s long and lanky,” offensive lineman Matt Pryor said. “But he’s strong as s---, too.”
Pryor said the area where Sweat has improved most is against the run. And Schwartz said he thought Sweat’s best play against the Jets was one where he sprinted from the other side of the formation to tackle Le’Veon Bell.
Stopping the run is important. But sacks are game-changing plays. Sweat is hoping they’ll come in bunches.
“I think they’re about to start rolling in now,” Sweat said. “They’re about to start rolling in.”
He better work on his celebrations then.
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