PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — To say expectations are high for Derek Barnett would be an understatement. That’s what happens when you break the record of a legend.
The Eagles’ top pick in the 2017 draft broke Reggie White’s all-time sack mark at Tennessee. White is one of the greatest Eagles to ever wear the green and white and a large picture of the “Minister of Defense” is on the wall in the Eagles auditorium. When Jim Schwartz was asked about Barnett on Tuesday, the defensive coordinator pointed to the picture of White to make a point regarding Barnett’s accomplishments in college.
“You turn around and look at that number 92 back there,” said Schwartz. “Anytime they can break any record that that guy has, that’s going to get your attention pretty quick. He played right away as a true freshman at the University of Tennessee, was productive game-in and game-out. He’s really tough. He’s got a great center of balance. He’s not on the ground very much. He’s got some things to work on like any rookie, but he was an effective player.”
The Eagles are going through their second week of full-squad OTAs. It will be the third week for the rookies since the newcomers got to practice without the veterans three weeks ago. Barnett has already made a strong impression with both the veterans and the first-year players and the first round draft pick is looking to keep things simple as he learns on the fly each day at practice.
“I’m learning,” Barnett said. “I think what I’m learning is probably the hardest adjustment. It just takes a lot of reps over and over and over again. I think it’s more technique.”
Defensive Lineman Fletcher Cox was back at OTAs after missing last week’s voluntary workouts. Cox has been impressed with Barnett and believes he is ready to make an impact in his rookie season. A boost for the pass rush from Barnett outside would open up more opportunities for Cox inside.
“I just go out and watch the kid,” said Cox. “To watch the kid these first couple of days here, you see he’s got a lot of energy. He’s going to be a big help to us.”
Despite breaking White’s record and being a first-round draft pick, Barnett appears to be keeping everything in perspective. He hardly seems like a player who is feeling the pressure of being a top draft choice. From Barnett’s perspective, it comes down to making progress every day as he prepares for life in the NFL.
“I need to get better,” Barnett said. “I can’t be the same player because I’m getting critiqued every day. It’s the NFL. I need to improve each and every day when I step on the field.”