How Derek Barnett is having a better career than most think
Following Josh Sweat’s extension Saturday morning, many fans and analysts pointed out that Derek Barnett, who was drafted much higher with more years under his belt, has yet to be extended. While it could be the case that Barnett might be on his way out, some have bashed him in light of Sweat’s success. It also doesn’t help that Barnett drew a bone-headed penalty that caused the Eagles to lose to the 49ers Sunday.
Before going any further, I will say there needs to be a serious adjustment into Barnett’s continuous stream of dirty penalties that have occurred for several seasons now. It’s one thing if they happen as a rookie, but this is Barnett’s fifth season in the NFL and hopefully, Nick Sirianni can change his mindset going forward. If he keeps this up throughout the season, he likely won’t be back and everything about to be said will be thrown out the window.
While I agree that Josh Sweat is a staple of this Eagles’ defensive line for years to come, the negativity towards Derek Barnett is beyond comprehension. For years, Derek Barnett has been a critical piece to this defensive line, and those who choose not to believe that are wrong in their opinion.
The first thing critics go towards is Derek Barnett’s numbers. While yes, they are low, there are a few things to keep in consideration. Barnett has played alongside Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox for his entire NFL career with a very deep group surrounding them. When you’re playing alongside the two best Eagles linemen of the 21st century, how do you expect Barnett to put up high stats?
Yes, Derek Barnett was a first-round draft pick, but he has also been playing next to two first-round draft picks. These aren’t scrubs taking his sacks away from him. But even looking at these three through where Barnett is in his career, the numbers are pretty similar, if not better for DB.
During their first four seasons, Derek Barnett and Brandon Graham played 48 games while Fletcher Cox played in 63. So for Fletch, we will show both his first four seasons alongside his first 48 games.
Sacks through each player’s first four seasons:
- Fletcher Cox: 22 sacks (13.5 in 48 games)
- Brandon Graham: 11.5
- Derek Barnett: 17.5 sacks
QB hits during each player’s first four seasons
- Fletcher Cox: 46 QB hits (28 in 48 games)
- Brandon Graham: 24 QB hits
- Derek Barnett: 65 QB hits
Tackles for loss through first four seasons
- Fletcher Cox: 31 TFL (21 in 48 games)
- Brandon Graham: 15 TFL
- Derek Barnett: 29 TFL
Are we sensing a pattern here? Fletch and BG weren’t hidden prospects that were expected to need time to develop either. Fletcher Cox was drafted 12th overall, while Brandon Graham was the 13th pick, Derek Barnett was selected behind both at 14. Looking at just the first 48 games, Barnett is leading in all three categories by a wide margin. It’s apparent Barnett is on the same career trajectory as these two players, and I would hope that Eagles fans think that is a very good thing.
Another thing in Barnett’s favor is he’s doing this while these two are playing alongside him in their primes. If anything, Cox and Graham should’ve had better starts to their careers without starting next to the peak versions of themselves. Also, Jonathan Gannon has had Barnett playing in coverage as a standup edge, adding to his versatility and value to the Eagles’ defense.
So again, what is the argument for Derek Barnett not living up to expectations? If he is playing at the same level as two of the Eagles’ cornerstones during their rookie deals, what is he doing wrong? Nonetheless, these same people also criticized Darius Slay and his contract, so who are they to know anything?
Following Brandon Graham’s brutal Achilles tear on Sunday, Derek Barnett has a major opportunity to prove his worth with an increased role. It’s unclear how the scheme and rotation will change without Graham, but Barnett is sure to be see more snaps and be able to prove his worth in a contract year.
Mandatory Credit: Getty Images