What can we truly expect from Derek Barnett in his first season with the Eagles?
Being the 14th overall selection in the NFL Draft comes with a ton of expectations. A collegiate career with the Tennessee Volunteers that consisted of just under 200 total tackles, 33 sacks, an interception and three forced fumbles would whet the appetite of any fan base desperate for a playmaker at the defensive end position. That’s exactly what has Philadelphia Eagles fans excited and what has Derek Barnett set to earn a contract that will earn him somewhere around $2.1 to $2.5 million during his rookie campaign.
Here comes a statement that won’t silence the hopes of an eager group of fans. Barnett is just as talented as defensive tackle Fletcher Cox was when he left the Mississippi State Bulldogs, maybe even more so. Cox, aside from an ejection versus the Detroit Lions, had an impressive rookie campaign with 39 tackles and 5.5 sacks. Barnett enters the NFL with benefit of having great teammates along the defensive line. That makes it impossible for any offensive coordinator to focus on him totally.
Three bold predictions for year one:
1. Barnett will post double-digit sacks after being named the day-one starter.
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Picture it. An unimpressive preseason by Vinny Curry disappoints everyone. Couple that with the realization that an aging Chris Long can’t play at a high level for the course of an entire game thrusts Barnett into the starting role early. His natural ability to bring down opposing quarterbacks turns heads. Every Eagles opponent spends a ton of their efforts trying to stop Cox, Timmy Jernigan and Brandon Graham. That leads to a double-digit sack total by the Volunteers all-time leader in that category.
2. Barnett gets a ton of votes for the Pro Bowl, but ultimately ends up as an alternate.
Let’s be honest. Some fans only look at sack totals when voting for defensive ends on the Pro Bowl ballot. For that reason, a buzz builds around Barnett and his accomplishments. Unfortunately, with so many budding stars in the NFL on defense, Barnett will receive a high vote total but still won’t be able to overtake some of his peers and some better-known talents who play the same position. He does, however, make the Pro Bowl as an alternate.
3. Barnett will be listed as a finalist for defensive rookie of the year, but will lose the honor to Myles Garrett of the Cleveland Browns.
The Eagles play in quite few nationally-televised games this season. Barnett shines in most of those games and is thrust into the spotlight, making him a household name. Still, name recognition becomes both his ally and his downfall. Myles Garrett, a name both die-hard and casual NFL fans have heard since the NFL Combine (or before), sees his list of supporters grow larger all season. In the end, it’s he, not Barnett, who is named the NFL’s defensive rookie of the year.
That’s how we have it. Let the debate begin.