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June 01, 2018

Jim Schwartz expects second-year jump from Derek Barnett

You can go ahead an call Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Derek Barnett's rookie season a success.

During the regular season, he had 21 tackles, 5 sacks, a forced fumble that was returned for a touchdown, and two fumble recoveries. In the NFC Championship Game, he had a huge strip sack of Case Keenum with the Minnesota Vikings knocking on the door in the Eagles' red zone, and still very much in the game. In the Super Bowl, Barnett recovered the Tom Brady fumble that was forced by Brandon Graham, which was the play that provided the most drastic swing in win probability in the Eagles' favor in the game.

Not bad for a guy who played through a sports hernia injury throughout the season. In his second season in the NFL, Jim Schwartz expects Barnett to continue to improve.

"Most players make a significant improvement from year one to year two," he said. "I think it's sort of one of the adages of the NFL. That's where you see a significant improvement. He set that bar pretty high in his first year. Made a lot of big plays for us. Also gained a lot of experience dealing with the long season and not just four preseason games [and the regular season], but deep into the playoffs and things like that. He had some bumps and bruises just like everybody, and the experience of dealing with that stuff. But, yeah, I think he's more seasoned now, little bit stronger now."

In the NFL, pass rushers typically get off to slow starts at the outsets of their careers. Rookie seasons like the one Joey Bosa had for the Chargers in 2016 (10.5 sacks in 12 games), for example, are few and far between. Below is a list of the 18 players who had at least 10 sacks last season, showing how many sacks they had their rookie season vs. their second season:

Player Team Rookie season Second season
Chandler Jones Cardinals 6 11.5
Calais Campbell Jaguars 0 7
DeMarcus Lawrence Cowboys 0 8
Everson Griffen Vikings 0 4
Cameron Jordan Saints 1 8
Ryan Kerrigan Redskins 7.5 8.5
Joey Bosa Chargers 10.5 12.5
Cameron Heyward Steelers 1 1.5
Ezekiel Ansah Lions 8 7.5
Yannick Ngakoue Jaguars 8 12
Julius Peppers Panthers 12 7
Terrell Suggs Ravens 12 10.5
Mario Addison Panthers 0 0
Aaron Donald Rams 9 11
Cameron Wake Dolphins 5.5 14
Melvin Ingram Chargers 1 1
Khalil Mack Raiders 4 15
Von Miller Broncos 11.5 18.5
TOTAL 97 157.5

As you can see, only three players from the sample size above saw their sack production dip in their second year, while nine improved their output by at least four sacks.

"Obviously, [Barnett has] been through the ringer, knows what to expect," Schwartz said. "I think that's a big part of young players too. When you're a rookie, there is so much uncertainty, and after you do it once, it settles down."

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