May 30, 2017
Every Eagles fan can tell you that defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is a pretty straight shooter. The intense former Detroit Lions head coach doesn’t really mince words, which is why he became sort of a cult hero in Philadelphia when the Eagles defense got off to a hot start last season.
(And less of a cult hero as the year kept moving, but still.)
Schwartz’s normal demeanor makes the praise that he offered at the start of the second week of OTAs for defensive end Derek Barnett, the No. 14 pick in May’s NFL Draft, fairly notable.
When asked about Barnett, Schwartz pointed to a photo of Reggie White on the walls at the NovaCare Center, mentioning Barnett breaking the Minister of Defense’s career sack record at the University of Tennessee.
“He’s really tough, he’s got a great center of balance, he’s not on the ground very much,” Schwartz said. “He’s got some things to work on like any rookie, but he was an effective player against all competition. He was consistent from game to game, he’s a tough as can be, he’s good against the run and good against the pass, played right and played left. All those things led us to draft him.”
It’s no secret that Schwartz believes in trying to get pressure with the front four instead of blitzing, so defensive end is a critical position in the Eagles defensive scheme. Howie Roseman and the front office made sure to add some depth there this offseason, drafting Barnett and bringing Chris Long over from the New England Patriots in free agency to join Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry.
So, what does that mean for the rookie in 2017?
“How much he can contribute, how quickly he can be ready is up to him and the coaches, it’s our job to get him ready to be out there,” Schwartz said. “But we’re really excited about him. He can turn the corner and be like this high off the ground, you guys will notice that when you see him out there.”
Barnett’s ability to bend and maneuver around offensive tackles is already well known, but perhaps most importantly, Schwartz praised the 20-year-old’s effort during OTAs and rookie camp.
“And he’s also been giving great effort in practice,” he said. “We pointed out his effort a couple of times, chasing the ball and those kind of things. And for a rookie to do that kind of stuff has been impressive so far.”
Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann
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