May 10, 2017
We have already been over why defensive end Derek Barnett was a good draft pick for the Eagles at No. 14 overall. No, he didn’t have the same type of combine performance as Myles Garrett, but in many ways, Barnett was a more productive player in college at the same position.
Garrett was rightfully voted the frontrunner for NFL defensive rookie of the year by a panel of NFL.com voters, but the Eagles first-round draft pick wasn’t far behind. Barnett ranked fourth behind Garrett, Jamal Adams, and Malik Hooker:
Perhaps it's fitting that the pass rusher who broke Reggie White's Tennessee record for career sacks landed with an NFL club that White once played for. He'll fit in even better if he can give the Eagles the same heat on quarterbacks that he provided the Volunteers. Barnett has been praised for refined technique and advanced use of his hands as a pass rusher. With such a polished game, a quick impact won't be a surprise.
Barnett has some polish on his pass-rushing moves and thrived against high-quality competition in the SEC, so I wouldn’t be stunned if he started on fire out of the gate.
1. Kelce Rumors Update: With a report that Max Unger (what a football name, by the way) is expected to be back by preseason, we can probably turn Jason Kelce’s car heading for the airport back around.
2. Eagles Roster Watch: Of the five Eagles players who need to play to potential in 2017, Fletcher Cox’s name might be the most interesting inclusion. Oh, and stick to granola bars and Gatorade going forward, Lane.
3. Eagles Draft Watch: It’s early, but the 2018 NFL Draft is supposedly pretty deep at offensive tackle. With Jason Peters possibly done after the 2017 season, that’s good news.
The Biggest Remaining Need For Each NFC Team: John Kosko, Pro Football Focus
Despite drafting Sidney Jones (who is hurt of course) and Rasul Douglas in Rounds 2 and 3, Kosko says the biggest hole on the Eagles roster is cornerback:
Rasul Douglas led the nation in interceptions with 8 while adding on an additional 10 pass defenses, and should compete immediately for a starting spot. That said, relying on two rookies — one coming off Achilles surgery — to transform a secondary is a stretch. The Eagles signed Dwayne Gratz in December and Patrick Robinson this offseason but Gratz played just 87 snaps in 2016 and Robinson is coming off his worst season since 2012. The Eagles boast a front-seven that has potential to be the best in the NFL but the defense could very well be undone by poor play by their cornerbacks.
NFL Draft sleeper watch: Chris Burke, Sports Illustrated
Among the Eagles draft picks, Burke singled out sixth-rounder Elijah Qualls as the Joel Embiid #TheySleep pick:
QB Jerod Evans (Virginia Tech) is another one to file away here, although there obviously is not an opening at his position here anytime in the near future. Qualls (6' 1", 313), though, can work into the rotation along Jim Schwartz’s defensive line, as a plus run defender with the versatility to play from the nose on out.
Eagles Spotlight: Ertz so Good! Tyler Jackson, Bleeding Green Nation
For those who like X’s and O’s as opposed to trade rumors or something, this is a good look at how Dougie P and Carson Wentz schemed up a Zach Ertz touchdown against the Cowboys:
Seeing this, Carson Wentz recognizes and knows that side of the field is likely to give him a favorable matchup with man coverage. The scheming is excellent against man, as the two receivers to the left clear out that side of the field on the smash concept by running their routes across the middle, leaving Ertz in a one-on-one situation against a linebacker who is heavily out leveraged to the spot of the play.
Texans, Cowboys among most vulnerable division winners: Gil Brandt, NFL.com
The Cowboys had a fourth-place schedule last season, and Brandt thinks the Eagles or another team will take the NFC East title from them:
Dallas could finish anywhere from first to fourth in the NFC East, but I ultimately think the Cowboys will take step back. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott will need to duplicate their amazing performances as rookies last year -- that's a tall order. The schedule will be tougher, with seven games against playoff teams on the slate. Crucially, the juggernaut of an offensive line lost Doug Free and Ronald Leary, meaning some shuffling of pieces will be necessary. An eight-game stretch in which Dallas faces the Chiefs, Falcons, Raiders and Seahawks will determine whether the Cowboys can repeat.
Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann
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