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April 28, 2017

'He's Philly tough:' Howie Roseman, Joe Douglas on Eagles' first-round pick Derek Barnett

Eagles NFL

On Thursday night, the Philadelphia Eagles selected Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett with the 14th-overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. 

A few minutes later, Howie Roseman, Joe Douglas and Doug Pederson met with members of the Philadelphia media at the NovaCare Complex to talk about their first-round pick, the draft process, and the other options that were available at 14.

Here's a full transcript of their Thursday night session with reporters:

Opening statement: 

HOWIE ROSEMAN: With the 14th pick we took Derek Barnett from Tennessee. First, just the excitement and energy that our fans have out there on the parkway. It's incredible. All of us upstairs just watching them, and seeing the energy and seeing what the city of Philadelphia has done for this draft. It's just really amazing to be a part of. We're really excited to get Derek. Highest rated guy on our board. A player throughout the process that we had done a lot of work on with Joe and his staff. We're always going to build along the lines, but at the same time, we wanted to stick to our board and take the highest rated guys that Joe and our staff have put together. He fits our scheme, he fits the culture we're trying to build. We think we've got a tremendous player and a tremendous person.

Howie, how great a factor was Schwartz's scheme, wanting edge rushers? How much of a factor was that in deciding to go after Barnett?

HOWIE ROSEMAN: Well, anyone we pick we want them to fit our schemes offensively or defensively. It's easy to watch Derek and picture what he'd do in this scheme. We'd believe in building up front on both sides of the ball and getting pressure on the quarterback. We think that helps everyone, it certainly helps the secondary when you get to the quarterback.

Joe, Derek told reporters yesterday that you guys were comparing him to Terrell Suggs. That was one of the names he heard. You obviously know him pretty well. Is that a guy you see in Derek?

JOE DOUGLAS: Yeah, it's funny. I actually did make a comparison to him and Terrell. Just from the perspective that both guys didn't test outrageously at the combine setting or pro day setting. But both are highly productive players, high toughness, great people. Again, his production is unmatched, breaking a Hall of Fame player's record at Tennessee.

Yeah, Howie, Joe, did you guys see three wide receivers going that quickly? Did you think there might be at least one of them still on the board when you guys picked?

HOWIE ROSEMAN: Yeah, we spent a lot of time, all of us, going through scenarios. We did not have any scenarios that looked like what's happened here. It was really interesting before us how it went. I think that a lot of teams were jumping up and getting quarterbacks. When they got them and it kind of affected the way the second half of this draft, the second half of the first round will end up playing out. So it was interesting for us and probably a little different than we thought it would roll off. But at the same time, when we did these scenarios, Derek Barnett and where we had him on our board and every scenario was a great scenario for us. We're really excited about him.

Obviously, the thing that stands out about Barnett is he got the quarterback down quite a bit in college. I know your defense had some difficulty doing that last year, so how big of a factor was that, not just that he gets there, but he's been able to manufacture those sacks? And then what are some of the key strengths in him doing that?

JOE DOUGLAS: What Derek is highly proficient at is at the top of his rush. So when the D-lineman gets to the top, he is excellent, excellent ankle flexion, excellent ability to bend at the top and finish. He can really close. And he uses a variety of moves. He uses speed rush. He uses power, he can go speed to power on people. So you're getting a guy that knows how to finish when he gets to the top of the rush.

He is a guy that is tough as nails ... he's going to fit in with some of those guys from the late '80s, early '90s Eagles teams. He's Philly tough.

I know you said that he was the top guy on your board, but you ended up with a lot of guys at 14 to choose from, like OJ Howard, like Jonathan Allen, did you expect to have that many people to choose from? How much did the three quarterback trades get you to the point where you had this choice?

HOWIE ROSEMAN: Well, we did expect at the 14th pick there would be some good players. Now the names of those guys may have been a little different than we had anticipated when we went through it. But we had anticipated scenarios where some good players would be there. For us, some of the things that factor into the equation, certainly we talk about character and medical.

So those are things that come into the equation as we finalize our board. But all through the process Derek was a guy, in fact, Joe and I had a moment in December where he came into my office and started raving about Derek Barnett, and I showed him a piece of paper that I had written down with his name. So it was kind of a funny moment that we had there when he came in and it was written about Derek Barnett.

He stands for what we want to be, and I think everyone in this city will see what kind of person he is, what kind of player he is. Unbelievably high character, unbelievable worker, and tremendously talented and productive.

Howie, you had used the first-round pick on a pass-rusher in 2014. You spent a lot of money on Vinny curry last year. How great (of) a factor were those allocation of resources in determining, okay, we need to go get another pass-rusher again?

HOWIE ROSEMAN: Yeah, I think that's part of the equation. By the same token, as we look at how we're building this and what we want to look like, we've got to be able to get pressure on the quarterback. This is a 20-year-old pass-rusher, and someone who could be here for a long time. For us, it's something that when you look at the draft and how do you get these guys, how do you acquire pass-rushers? They're really hard to acquire. It's a tough-to-fill position, and you can never have enough of those guys.

We look at it in the off-season, and we lost two guys on defensive line to start, and now we come back and getting him and Chris, and Timmy, we really feel like our lines are the strength of this football team. For all of us, when we sit down and discuss what we want to be, it's that. That's the start. So our actions have to reflect that. We stay true to the process on this.

RELATED: Barnett on Schwartz's defensive scheme: 'I love it ... that's my style'

When you got to 14 and Jonathan Allen was there and Derek Barnett was there, was there any decision as far as that was concerned? Or you already had that it was Barnett was better than Allen? And as far as Doug, were you secretly rooting for an offensive player, and when all those wide receivers were gone, did you kind of say oh, shucks or maybe something else?

JOE DOUGLAS: No, just in regards to Jonathan versus Derek, yeah, those are discussions that we've had for the last month going through each different scenario. Like Howie and I mentioned earlier, that was part of it.

We're very -- we couldn't be more excited about Derek, and Howie hit the nail on the head. He is a guy that is tough as nails. When I think of some of the teams that I used to grow up watching here in Philadelphia, he's going to fit in with some of those guys from the late '80s, early '90's Eagles teams. He's Philly tough. So I'll let Doug answer the offensive question.

DOUG PEDERSON: Yeah, from an offensive standpoint, it's surprising to see those guys go. But at the same time, I'm excited to get Derek in here and get working with him. He is a guy that, as these two men have alluded to, he fits what we're doing. He fits exactly what we're trying to build here and what we started last year.

Being a quarterback and being a former quarterback in this league, anytime you can acquire pass-rushers to get after the quarterback with the guys that we have and mix him in there now, it makes us better.

Obviously, every year the challenge is everything starts up front with the offensive and defensive lines, and this is another piece to getting that going.

So you weren't rooting for a wide receiver and it kind of slipped down there?

DOUG PEDERSON: I'm rooting for the best available, the best talented guy that we can bring in to compete with our guys that we currently have on the roster.

Joe, Derek and Myles Garrett had similar career sack numbers. The biggest difference was Derek's, I want to say 28 out of 32 of them were in the SEC, whereas Myles had a lot, a lot against smaller schools. How much of a factor was his play against SEC opponents as far as trying to gauge how good he is?

JOE DOUGLAS: It's definitely a factor when you see a guy that shows up in big games and big moments. I mean, heck, that's what I saw last year in Carson, a guy that showed up in big games and big moments like a National Championship game. To see a guy that plays in the best conference in all of college football show up week-in and week-out and be as consistent as he is, that's a big factor.

Q. When you like a guy like that on tape so much, what do you think when his tests kind of come up a little less than would be ideal?

JOE DOUGLAS: It's a little bit easier because of the past experience that I've had talking about a guy like Suggs. At the end of the day, the tape takes you to the player. That's the biggest part of his resume. Like I said earlier, he's done it at the highest level for a long time.

HOWIE ROSEMAN: Just so you know when we talk about his testing, not to make excuses for Derek, but at the combine he had the flu, and he decided to test through it. And he had a hamstring at his pro day.

When you talk about Joe's input coming in here and changing how you guys talk about players, not how you talk about players but how he talks about players and how if you guys are ranking players; is this a guy that maybe wouldn't have been -- certainly wouldn't have been on your radar this high, but is he more of a Joe guy because he produced?

HOWIE ROSEMAN: He's an Eagle. We're all in this together, and all of us when we discuss players, we discuss players that fit how we envision this team looking. When we look back at this draft class and how we want it to look, and starting with Derek, that's something that makes all of us really proud. It's not about just one of us here, it's about all of us being on the same page about the vision and how this looks. When we do that, it starts with the coaching staff and what the coaches are looking for from their players. Certainly we're really proud when we think about this draft and putting that guy at the top of our draft last night, we've got a lot of work to do. We've got seven more picks, and there's going to be a lot of different turns and twists as we go forward. But it is a great start for the Philadelphia Eagles.

We know what Barnett did in college, but is he also the type of guy that hasn't reached his ceiling yet? Can he get much better at the NFL level or are you just kind of bringing in a guy that you know is going to be a ham-and-egger, basically?

JOE DOUGLAS: No, I think there is a higher ceiling with Derek. I think he is going to get better. I think Chris [Eagles defensive line coach Chris Wilson] and Phillip [Eagles defensive quality control/assistant defensive line coach Phillip Daniels] are going to do a great job with him and improve some of his hand technique. He even said it in his interview after he was drafted, how he's just scratching the surface of his talent level. So I expect him to definitely reach his full potential because of his make-up.

HOWIE ROSEMAN: [Derek] wrote an article on The Players’ Tribune, and I'm paraphrasing, but I think the last sentence was, ‘Everyone talks about me and that I broke Reggie White's sack record, but I'm going to be known for something different at the end of my career in the NFL.’ I read that last night and thought it was pretty cool.

RELATED: Philly gives Roger Goodell a very Philly welcome at NFL Draft

Joe, you've seen a lot of guys on film and all this other stuff. What jumped out at you about Derek Barnett, and what are his prospects at this point for starting on opening day, if everything equal goes through?

JOE DOUGLAS: I couldn't even begin to answer the second part of that question, but I will say this: the thing that jumped out to me with Derek, just like I mentioned earlier, is his ability to finish at the top of his rush. First, he's got a great first step, so he's getting tackles off balance. Then, when he gets to the top of the rush, he's able to bend and close and finish. [He’s got] very strong hands [and] great lower-body flexibility.

Q. Does anything about Derek remind you of Reggie White?

HOWIE ROSEMAN: Joe, did you scout Reggie White? [joking]

JOE DOUGLAS: [Laughs] I didn't scout Reggie White, so I shouldn't comment on that. But, you're talking about a legend, so.

Howie, how did the depth at the cornerback position influence your strategy? How does what happened with Ohio State CB Gareon Conley impact the way this draft might unfold?

HOWIE ROSEMAN: Yeah, this whole draft process has been interesting. I think when we started in January and looked at it, and kind of looked at where we were picking and some of the names, a lot has happened. A lot has occurred with a lot of those guys that has made this a different process -- whether it’s injuries or character, or things that have happened close to the draft. So we really felt like we had to stay true to the board, and no matter what our needs were, we were going to take the best player. We had a group of players that we thought were the best players in the draft, and we feel very fortunate to get someone from that group of players. By the same token, obviously, it is a good class at the defensive back position. But I wouldn't be surprised if we go back now and there is a run on that. I don't even know who has gone [during this press conference]. But it's going to go quickly and I think some of the names have changed. Just like at the top of the draft, if you would have predicted who would have gone before we picked, to think that [three] quarterbacks would have gone and all the receivers would have gone, probably wasn't in a lot of the scenarios that we went through. But we spent a lot of time going through the scenarios.

You guys talked so much about this collaborative process. It's kind of been the buzz word. What about the process this year was different that led you to Derek Barnett at 14?

HOWIE ROSEMAN: Well, I think it starts with Joe and his scouts. Since Joe has been here, the things that he stressed to [the scouting staff] when we met and talked about what we wanted this team to look like, is that it's the war-daddy mentality of having guys on the field who are going to do whatever it takes to get better. Guys who have an incredibly high motor and tremendous character. 

This is the first pick with Joe here, and to get a guy [in Derek] who -- when we talk about those guys -- is our example when we talk to the scouts, and when Joe talks to the scouts and says, ‘This is what I'm talking about here in Derek Barnett.’ I think it's a great example for the room here as we go forward over the next couple of days. This is what fits. This is what we're looking for, and this is how we want to build. For us, the thing we're proud about this offseason, is that we committed to building the lines. On the offensive line, we brought everyone back, and re-signed Wiz [C/G Stefen Wisniewski] and added Chance [G Chance Warmack]. Then on the defensive line, making sure we're really strong up front.

Just to follow up. In regards to some of the characteristics you just mentioned, is some of that a departure from the way things had been done before?

HOWIE ROSEMAN: I don't know necessarily that it's a departure, but it's more stressed. And I think that that's some of the things. I mean, I think there are things that you're attracted to naturally, and I think we balance each other on that stuff. I understand the reason why it's so important to have guys like that on this football team. The more guys we can get like that who have incredible passion for the game, who have tremendous character, who will do whatever it takes to get better and who are team players, the more we're going to have success going forward.

Joe, you're a veteran of a few of these draft nights. Howie alluded to how this first round didn't unfold quite the way anybody could have predicted. How many directions was your head spinning as you got a little closer to your pick? Two of the three teams ahead of you had defensive needs and took defensive players. If you really were in love with Barnett, were you even toying with the idea of trying to jump up a little bit? Just how interesting of a half-hour was that there?

JOE DOUGLAS: Yeah, from the beginning, probably from the second pick on, you definitely weren't expecting some of those players to come off the board. But, again, once we get to draft night, the hay is in the barn, so to speak, with the work. We've discussed every different scenario: this player versus this player. So, as the draft unfolds, everybody is composed; everybody's patient, and we let the board come to us.

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