The Eagles invested a first round pick in Derek Barnett in 2017, but 2019 will be the season where he pays big time dividends for the franchise.
Derek Barnett may be an afterthought for opposing offensive coordinators at the moment, but things are going to change for the Eagles defensive end in 2019. Philadelphia’s front office has their former first-round pick in position to break out this season.
Some Eagles fans might view Barnett as a disappointment, but franchise officials still view him as a positive asset. General manager Howie Roseman still expects the former Tennessee star to be a “huge part” of his team moving forward. Barnett enjoyed a relatively productive rookie season but lost most of his sophomore campaign to a shoulder injury.
That obviously makes 2019 a massive year for his career. Fortunately for him, he’s never been in a better position to succeed at the NFL level. The Eagles traded Michael Bennett to the Patriots this offseason and lost Chris Long due to retirement. That opens up a ton of playing time at defensive end for Barnett.
Perhaps more importantly, the Eagles have two of the most disruptive defensive tackles in the game projected to start up front for them. Fletcher Cox is a known commodity in Philadelphia. There’s no question he’s a Pro Bowl talent. Barnett should line up next to him more often than not as the starter at right defensive end this season.
The addition of Malik Jackson this offseason will give Eagles fans something new to cheer for in 2019. He may not be the most consistent tackle in the league, but when he’s at his best he’s a nightmare for interior offensive lineman to handle. Jackson is particularly dangerous when he’s set free to rush the passer on obvious passing downs.
At best, Barnett will be the third defensive lineman opposing offenses consider when they’re preparing to play the Eagles. There’s a legitimate argument to be made that Brandon Graham will also merit more attention than the third-year pro. But the real point here is that Barnett is going to get ignored by a lot of opposing offenses during their preparation process, and to their detriments.
That mistake is going to allow Barnett to wreck Eagles opponents on a weekly basis. He isn’t the most explosive defensive lineman on Doug Pederson’s roster, but he’s got excellent technique. That makes him particularly productive when he’s permitted to work one-on-one against an opposing offensive tackle.
The combination of Cox and Jackson on the inside is going to make it impossible for Eagles’ opponents to double-team Barnett with any type of consistency. He can’t ask for a better situation to have a career year. Look for Barnett to put up monster numbers in 2019.