Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles D-line coach: Too early to talk about Derek Barnett as starter

Eagles D-line coach: Too early to talk about Derek Barnett as starter

Two preseason games into his NFL career, Eagles rookie Derek Barnett is off to a pretty good start. 

He has three sacks in two games and has shown flashes of why the Eagles think they might have something special in the 14th overall pick out of Tennessee. 

It's just too early to talk about him as a starter.

At least that's what Eagles defensive line coach Chris Wilson said Saturday afternoon. 

"He's a rookie," Wilson said. "He's got a lot of work ahead of him."

Although Wilson doesn't think Barnett is quite ready to start, he has been impressed by many things the rookie has done. He thinks Barnett has the ability to be a three-down player and has been pleasantly surprised about how coachable he is. 

Eventually, Barnett will become a starter. That's always the plan for first-round picks. On Saturday, though, Wilson wouldn't say when he thinks Barnett will be ready. 

How will he know? 

"We'll all know," Wilson said. "The production and the consistency. And that's what you have to have in this league. It can't be flashes. It's got to be every week, when people come into the stadium, they know exactly what they're going to get. When we're at that point, we'll kind of know if he's that guy or not."

For now, Barnett is part of the Eagles' second-team defense along with Chris Long on the other side. Brandon Graham, coming off his best NFL season, and Vinny Curry are the current starters. 

While Graham's spot is seemingly solidified after making the All-Pro second team in 2016, Curry's spot seems less concrete. While Curry signed a huge contract extension before the start of last season, he didn't have a very good 2016. He failed to keep his starting job and came off the bench behind Graham and Connor Barwin. He had just 2 1/2 sacks, his lowest total since his rookie season in 2012. 

While Barnett has looked great early in the preseason, Curry has seemingly been invisible. 

But Wilson claims Curry has looked good. 

"I'm really focusing on guys who are able to do their job consistently," Wilson said. "And it's one of those things, if you're doing your job people don't really pick on you. Vinny's done a great job of being in position to make plays when he has opportunities. Obviously, due to the limited reps that he's had compared to the reps Derek had, those have shown a little bit. I've been pleased with Vinny."

When asked what Barnett needs to work on, Wilson listed three things: alignments, splits and understanding how offenses will attack him. 

Barnett has used this training camp to work on complementary moves to go along with his edge pass-rushing. While his outside moves got him the sack record at Tennessee, he'll need more than that in the pros. He's spent his summer working on inside power and spin moves. 

He's been working on those complementary moves, but there's no question that his outside pass-rush is still his go-to. From the moment the Eagles drafted Barnett, personnel chief Joe Douglas immediately began to tout the young defensive end's bend and ankle flexion. 

Wilson said guys work on their ankle flexion, but said it's a "gift" not everyone has. Basically, Barnett's ability to bend at his ankles keeps his cleats flat on the ground and helps keep his balance as he gets around offensive tackles. 

Wilson explained there are six points of balance when watching a player's bend: the right and left sides of hips, knees and ankles. Barnett has all of that going for him. 

"It's something that I think he found out quite early in his career," Wilson said. "It's something that we have to accentuate."

Because Barnett isn't yet a starter, he'll be coming off the bench as a part of the defensive line rotation. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz rotates his defensive linemen to keep them fresh. That will be a good thing for Barnett, who has really shown off his motor during this preseason. 

He goes hard on every play. 

"[Barnett] enjoys football," Wilson said. "He plays with great effort and that's one of the things at this level that I hope he never loses. He definitely enjoys the sport, he plays wide open all the time. So that's been exciting."

Doug Pederson still undecided on Eagles' starter at left guard

usa-ap-stefan-wisniewski-chance-warmack-eagles.jpg
USA Today Images/AP Images

Doug Pederson still undecided on Eagles' starter at left guard

As expected, Chance Warmack got the start at left guard for the Eagles on Sunday. The surprising part was Stefen Wisniewski wound up playing the majority of the snaps.

Warmack wound up being on the field for 32 plays against the Giants, compared to 44 for Wisniewski. It’s not as if Warmack exited the game with an injury or was benched for poor play, either. The two of them alternated throughout the contest.

After the game, Eagles coach Doug Pederson acknowledged the plan was to rotate Warmack and Wisnewski all along.

“We wanted to give both of those guys an opportunity [Sunday], and it just so happened that Wis ended up taking the bulk of the reps,” Pederson said. “But we had them both ready.”

Pederson added the rotation was based on in-game performance. The next day, however, he wasn’t ready to settle on a permanent starter at left guard.

“There was some positives with both players,” Pederson said Monday. “Chance had a couple of missed opportunities early in the game, but bounced back and, in the run, game was effective. At the same time, Wis getting an opportunity — Wis is that veteran player you know when you put him in that he's going to execute and do some nice things for you.

“It's something we'll evaluate this week again going forward, and by Sunday, we'll have the best five out there.”

That means Warmack and Wisniewski could continue auditioning for the job in Week 4 when the Eagles travel to Los Angeles to face the Chargers.

“If someone at that position just steps up, we definitely could go into a game with seven guys,” Pederson said.

Despite shuffling different players in and out, the offensive line turned in its best performance of the season so far. Eagles running backs rushed 33 times for 171 yards — a 5.2 average — and two touchdowns, while quarterback Carson Wentz was hit on only 4 of 37 dropbacks.

While continuity is essential to quality offensive line play, Pederson has repeatedly downplayed that notion, likening changes up front to substitutions at other positions.

“These guys are all prepared the same, so we shouldn't miss a beat one way or the other just by rotating at that position,” Pederson said.

“The way our guys practice, and the way (Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland) prepares these guys, it's seamless. It's flawless, and that's the way it should be. As backup role players, you're expected to know what a starter does. Same as a backup quarterback, you should be expected to do the same thing.”

Several of the Eagles’ veteran linemen didn’t disagree.

“Both of those guys — I played beside before, so it’s not a big deal,” said left tackle Jason Peters, adding he did not know beforehand who would be lining up to his right.

“The thing is, they’ve had numerous reps,” said right tackle Lane Johnson. “That’s what are OTAs are for. You get numerous reps, so when you’re number is called, you’re not caught off guard.”

Of course, that’s easy for everybody else to say. Warmack and Wisniewski are almost certainly trying to make the best of a difficult situation.

Warmack was unavailable for comment postgame, but Wisnewski admitted there are some challenges involved with subbing in and out.

“It’s definitely easier for anybody to be in there and feel the flow of the game, whether you’re a running back, an offensive lineman, whoever,” Wisniewski said. “But we made it work today.

“We’re all pros. Mentally, all you can do is be ready when they call your number and try to stay warm on the sideline.”

The situation at left guard came about because second-year pro Isaac Seumalo struggled in his first two starts. Pederson stresses the club hasn’t lost faith in Seumalo, and “he’s still in the mix.” But for the time being, at least, the Eagles appear determined to go in a different direction at that spot.

Thus, the ongoing competition — while unorthodox — probably is not as unique or atypical as it sounds.

“I actually talked to (former Eagles offensive lineman) Allen Barbre last night,” Johnson said. “They’re doing the same thing with him in Denver. It’s not out of the ordinary. They have two guys, want to see what they can do and see who the better man is.”

In this case, the Eagles have two players with vastly different skill sets, so it makes sense to see which meshes better with their teammates.

“Wis is more of a technician,” Peters said. “He’s almost like a center at guard, which he really is. He knows the offense, he’s giving calls, more of a communicator. And Chance is more of an aggressor. He wants to get into the linebackers.”

Wisniewski could not personally remember an occasion where he was rotating in and out of the lineup during a game. Regardless, the Eagles picked up a victory over the NFC East rival Giants, so for one week anyway, it was all good.

“The guys around us, (Eagles center Jason Kelce) and JP did well rolling with it,” Wisniewski said. “It worked out well. Got a win, ran the ball well and protected well as a whole.”

Long-term, it would behoove the Eagles to settle on a permanent starter sooner rather than later.

Doug Pederson on Beckham's celebrations: 'Our players see it, our fans see it'

Doug Pederson on Beckham's celebrations: 'Our players see it, our fans see it'

Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. scored two huge touchdowns in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game at the Linc. 

After the first, he mimicked a dog by getting on all fours before lifting his leg and fake urinating on the field. That drew a flag. On the next touchdown, Beckham raised a fist in the air and stood at attention. 

On Monday, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said he wasn't going to comment on it. Then he commented on it. 

"Our players see it, our fans see it," Pederson said. "It's one of those things I think you just kind of file away in the back of your mind. And you just remember those things and move on. It's unfortunate. I have to control our guys obviously and every other coach has to control their players. It's something that you don't want to see it in the game. It takes away from a great play that he just made."

Beckham was vague about the meaning behind the fist-raising celebration after the game. But Malcolm Jenkins has been raising his fist during the national anthem for about a year. 

When asked if the celebrations could have led to Jenkins' being a little more aggressive on a pass interference penalty later in the game — Jenkins clotheslined Beckham — Pederson said he thought it was "possible." But he also said it was just a play Jenkins made to prevent Beckham from possibly scoring a touchdown. 

Beckham, for his part, didn't see anything dirty on the play. 

"He made a smart play," Beckham said. "I'm running down the field. I'm gonna make a play and so he stops that. It's football. He made a play to stop me from making a play." 

After the game, Beckham didn't apologize for his celebrations. He understood that the penalty after the "urination celebration" led to his team kicking off from the 20. 

"But when I get in the end zone, I'm going to do what I'm going to do," he said. "I'm going to try to spark this team."