Going into the NFL Draft, it was assumed the Eagles were going to come out of it with at least one EDGE rusher. Depth at the position was light and there were heavy question marks over the unit’s production and longevity. Casey Toohill was that man – drafted in the seventh round. With that being the only move, all eyes turn to one man and one man only.
Brandon Graham’s eccentric 2019 campaign could well be replicated next year, but he won’t be around forever. Josh Sweat took a step forward last season but he’ll need a leap in 2020, and Shareef Miller played just 2 special teams snaps throughout his entire rookie campaign. That leaves Derek Barnett, whose career-season wasn’t enough to tempt the Eagles into picking up a fifth-year option just yet. He enters year number four knowing his long-term future is at stake.
Throughout his first three years, Barnett’s average of 31 tackles, 11 TFL and 22 QB hits outshines what Brandon Graham achieved in his first three seasons as an Eagle, but the situations just seem different.
He’s missed 13 games out of a possible 48 and has never really been able to emerge as a consistent weapon off the edge. Barnett would often fade away as drives deepen before coming up with a play by being in the right spot at the right time.
In 2019, Barnett played the first 12 games but would miss the next two weeks with an ankle injury. He returned for the final two games of the regular season and played 53 snaps in the playoff game. He ended that campaign with 6.5 sacks.
What Barnett could’ve used in an ideal universe, was the drafting of a ‘Vinny Curry’ esque player. A young bull to rush into the position, wreak some havoc, and take some pressure of Barnett’s shoulders. Instead, as should rightfully be expected, Barnett will go into 2020 with the world watching and waiting for him to step up in a way that a former first-round pick absolutely should by this stage in his career.
Barnett will have a full offseason for the first time since High School and will do so with a brand new defensive line coach in the way of Matt Burke.
On one side of the coin, the refusal to sign a free agent or draft a high-profile player could be seen as a vote of confidence in Barnett’s play. On the other, it heaps a ton of pressure onto a young player who has struggled to stay healthy and moreover consistent in his first three years of play.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports