Chris Wilson has liked what he's seen out of Derek Barnett this offseason.
He's just trying to not get too carried away.
The Eagles' second-year defensive line coach has been very impressed by the Eagles' first-round pick, and for good reason. Barnett has flashed throughout spring practices, showing why he was worthy of the 14th overall pick. Just last week, the young defensive end beat Lane Johnson on consecutive plays to get into the backfield.
Still, Wilson is trying to temper his expectations.
"We haven't put a pad on," the Eagles defensive line coach said on Monday morning as the team's position coaches met with reporters. "We haven't had to tackle anyone. You're just being cautiously optimistic about what he brings to the table.
"The great part is what you saw on film and what we saw on film, is what we're seeing here, from a leadership standpoint, from a work-ethic standpoint. He doesn't expect anything to be easy. He doesn't look for anything outside of being coached. So I'm pleased with him. The key thing is to just keep developing him and be realistic about where he is at this point."
So what does Barnett need to work on?
"Everything. He needs everything. He's a rookie," Wilson said. "He hasn't put any pads on.
"What I do love about him is he's a thermostat, he's not a thermometer. He's not trying to gauge the temperature of the room. He comes in, he has the right mindset. Those have all been characteristics I like. The only way to learn it at this level is to play. Getting used to the speed of the game is a big part of his [job] right now. I've been pleasantly surprised, but again, he's a rook and he's got a lot of things to learn. What I am pleased with is his overall ability, his talent level is something that will bode well for him and for us."
Barnett enters a defensive end group that already includes Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry and Chris Long. It's fair to wonder how Barnett will fit in. Throughout the spring, the team has been using mostly Graham and Curry as its starters, but there will be some sort of rotation during the season.
Once training camp hits, Barnett will really get to make his case for more playing time.
In the spring, so far, so good. Barnett has shown off the end "ankle flexion" vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas raved about shortly after the Eagles drafted him. It was one of the traits that helped Barnett break Reggie White's sack record at Tennessee. And it was one of the things Wilson noticed when he watched film.
"He was dominant in probably the best league in college football (SEC)," Wilson said. "He was dominant. He did it at a high level, he never missed a football game. Everyone you talk to in Tennessee's organization had the right things to say, the things that fit this organization, as far as his toughness, how he treats people, what kind of teammate he is. Never missing a game, breaking Reggie White's sack record. Those things are relevant.
"And we didn't meet his representative. He is still the same guy he was."