Derek Barnett could become Eagles’ first-ever rookie of the year
By Matt Giraldi
“It’s just preseason.”
For Derek Barnett however, the preseason is quickly showing why the Philadelphia Eagles were so high on him prior to the draft.
Lofty expectations are normal for a first round pick. In Derek Barnett‘s case, expectations are literally, and figuratively, soaring like an eagle. To say the Philadelphia Eagles rookie defensive end has been impressive thus far would be a gross understatement.
No matter where you look, Barnett is receiving praise from his performance in the first two preseason games. Pro Football Focus has gushed over his stats. Fran Duffy, the video content manager for the Eagles, put together an Oscar-worthy highlight clip of Barnett’s impressiveness against the Bills.
The players on the field are taking notice as well. Whether it’s Jordan Hicks or Timmy Jernigan heaping praise on him, what Barnett is doing is atypical for a rookie and well-deserving of the applause.
"“I’ve been saying since Day 1: You ask me about Derek Barnett, he has a motor,” linebacker Jordan Hicks said after the Eagles’ 20-16 preseason victory over the Bills. “He does not quit on any play. He’s going to continue to come after you, down after down after down.”"
It’s not just Eagles players taking notice either. After all, just ask Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor or Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Hundley. However, there’s one group of people that are tempering expectations: The Eagles coaching staff.
All for Tennessee
As Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer noted, Bennett has received almost twice as many snaps in the preseason as Vinny Curry. The coaches know what they have in Curry. Meanwhile, Bennett is still learning the tricks of the trade. By the time Halloween rolls around, Bennett might be serving the Eagles treats while tricking opposing tackles.
At the University of Tennessee, Barnett broke Reggie White‘s career sack record. Since 1980, an Eagles player has recorded 10 or more sacks 32 times. White accounted for eight of those occurrences.
Heading into his rookie season, Barnett is looking to something that neither White nor any other Eagles player has done: Win the AP Rookie of the Year award. In order to do so, he will likely have to surpass 10 sacks. Last year’s winner, Joey Bosa, finished the season with 10.5 sacks (in only 12 games). That’s been steep sledding in Philadelphia however. Since 2010, only Jason Babin, Connor Barwin and Trent Cole have had more than 10 sacks in a season.
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Assisting in Barnett’s quest will be a defense ripe with talent. Perhaps it’s fitting that a player like Barnett is so closely related to White. In 1991, the Eagles sent three players along the defensive line to the Pro Bowl. In 2017, the Eagles could send three as well. If Barnett continues what he’s doing, the Pro Bowl might be the least important award he receives this year.