Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz made it a point to single out Birds first-round draft pick rookie defensive end Derek Barnett for having a good pass rush against Eagles future Hall of Fame left tackle Jason Peters, during the Birds Friday training camp workout.
“He’s going to have the duty to meet every challenge that comes along”, Schwartz said in a news conference a couple of days ago. “He’s been up for it so far. He had a really good rush against JP [T Jason Peters] yesterday. Now maybe one out of four, but it still was, you know, it still was there, and we’re excited about it.”
During the rookie camp, Schwartz talked about the key to the development of the pass rushing techniques of his young defensive end.
“Well, it all works off of his edge rush, and you have to keep guys honest”, Schwartz said. “There are a lot of times in college you can live off of one move. You get to the NFL, and guys are going to take that one move away, and you’re going to have to have a counter to it. So whether it’s an inside power move, whether it’s an inside spin move, he’s been working really hard on an inside spin. It’s not there yet, but he’s working on it. He’s got really good hands and he can get some speed to power, where he’s getting ready to duck, and then go stick those guys and collapse the pocket. But you’ve got to have that whole arsenal, and that’s going to be his thing in training camp to complete that arsenal.”
I like the attitude Barnett brings to the game. I had the chance to spend some time with him during the week of the draft and I was impressed with his attitude towards wanting to work. Barnett doesn’t want anything given to him because he was a number one pick. The young man from Tennessee wants to earn his success.
After the Eagles practice on Saturday, Barnett put some extra time working with Peters and listening to him about how to he could improve his pass rush game.
He also understands the importance of the mental aspect of the NFL game and how vital it is to have good technique. Barnett knows he was able to beat college players with speed, quickness and strength, but in the NFL everybody has those qualities, so you must have superior technique in order to consistently come out on top.
For instance, the young rookie knows he’s much like a young hard throwing pitcher coming into the Major Leagues. He’s got the 97 miles-a-hour heater, but he needs a good curve ball, change-up or slider to keep the hitters honest, so they do sit and waiting on the fastball.
Barnett must add moves to his pass rush repertoire that will keep offensive tackles honest, so that they don’t focus on his outside rush and take that away. He has a tremendous speed move around the corner, but he must develop a power move, where he goes straight into the tackle with either a bull rush or some other move where he tries to run over the blocker.
This isn’t going to be easy for him because he’s only 260 pounds and NFL offensive tackles are usually 310 to 350 pounds. The key to the bull rush move will be leverage. He’s got to get up under the tackles and use his legs to push them back. Barnett will need to get in the weight room and strengthen his lower body, in order to be able to push back these human freight trucks.
Barnett also needs an inside move, which will make the offensive tackle honor the threat of him going inside. This inside move can be a arm under or a spin move. The key with both moves will be his technique. First of all, he can give the move away by doing something that lets the tackle know that the inside move is coming. He’s got to make the outside move, the direct attack power move and inside move all look exactly alike.
Barnett must work on those accompanying moves to the point where he can execute them in his sleep. He must perfect the moves until he is confident in all his moves, so that he is a risk to run them at all times. The young defensive end must show the offensive tackles that he can beat a blocker with any of the three moves at any time. This is key because if the offensive tackles don’t respect his power move or his inside move, they will play the speed move and push him further and further outside, so that he will have no chance of getting to the quarterback.
I encourage you Eagles fans to check out Barnett during the preseason and see how he is progressing with developing his series of pass rush moves. It will be a key to how he does in his rookie season. Barnett will be fighting for playing time with Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Chris Long, and Steven Means.