While NFC East rival, the Dallas Cowboys, have been loading up on their defensive line through free agency; the Eagles have found that consistency is key. The franchise has had unlimited opportunities to upgrade at defensive end but instead have decided to stay pat in hopes that their 14th overall pick from the 2017 NFL Draft breaks through. That man is Derek Barnett.
Barnett’s story so far
Barnett was on the right side of a recovered fumble back in 2017 when the Eagles won their first Super Bowl. Ever since that fateful moment, he’s been as under the radar as one can possibly be.
After ending his rookie year in such fairytale fashion, expectations were high going into 2018. The team was coming off of their Super Bowl win and the defensive line had all of their returning pieces. Barnett started the season strong as he had 11 QB hits, 2.5 sacks, and 5 tackles for loss. Unfortunately, that season was cut short due to injury.
2019 was a different ball game for the former Tennessee product. He had a fairly decent season but one that was unfairly overlooked. The NFL loves flashy but that’s not what Barnett is, which plays into the hands of the Eagles regime for several reasons. While the Philadelphia faithful grew obsessed with their team chasing names like Jadeveon Clowney and others; Barnett was hard at work in hopes of breaking out.
Though the Eagles season ended on a sour note due to the player that fans hoped would replace Derek Barnett, DB had a strong campaign that definitely deserved some respect. He ended the season with 6.5 sacks, 22 QB hits, and 2 forced fumbles. Barnett even finished in the top 10 of most QB knockdowns.
What does the future hold?
The potential is there, but can 2020 provide the opening needed for Barnett to put the league on notice? Brandon Graham seems to think so as he mentioned recently to media members: “watch out for DB.” Graham also mentioned that Barnett is “trying to have his breakout year now that he’s coming into the year feeling good.”
To be fair, this will be the first offseason where Barnett isn’t rehabbing from an injury. Instead, he’s had nothing but time to improve on his game and focus on getting into shape for the season. The former Tennessee Volunteer isn’t far off from where he wants to be but in order to put the NFL world on notice, he’ll have to make a big leap.
The Eagles doubled down on their former first-round selection by picking up his fifth-year option, making these next two seasons absolutely crucial. Barnett will be hoping that even though a shortened offseason makes life tougher, that he’s in the best position yet to record his most explosive season to date.
Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports