Unclear on Which Side He'll Play, Derek Barnett 'willing to Do Anything on the Field' - NBC 10 Philadelphia

Unclear on Which Side He'll Play, Derek Barnett 'willing to Do Anything on the Field'

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    Unclear on Which Side He'll Play, Derek Barnett 'willing to Do Anything on the Field'
    CSNPhilly.com
    Unclear on which side he'll play, Derek Barnett 'willing to do anything on the field'

    Friday was the first time first-round pick Derek Barnett got to throw on an Eagles uniform.

    Just don't expect the 20-year-old defensive end to get too sentimental about rookie minicamp.

    "(I'm) very excited, but I don't try to get all wide-eyed about it," Barnett said. "I just try to take practice day by day and get better at my craft and learn as much as I can."

    Barnett earned the reputation as a hard worker during his three seasons at the University of Tennessee. He isn't a freak athlete, but his relentless motor led him to break the Volunteers' all-time sack record, set by the late great Reggie White.

    Barnett won't be asked to come in and play like the "Minister of Defense." He'll get the chance to contribute in a rotation with veterans in the underperforming Vinny Curry, newcomer Chris Long and Brandon Graham.

    For now, Barnett is just trying to familiarize himself with his new teammates, new coaching staff, and most importantly, a new scheme.

    "At first everything went fast and then as practice continued to go, it slowed down," Barnett said. "We have meetings and stuff to see what we did wrong, make corrections and tomorrow we get back on the field, fix what we need to fix and just keep getting better every day."

    It will take time to see where exactly Barnett fits into Jim Schwartz's rotation.

    Graham, who hasn't been involved in the Eagles' voluntary offseason program, excelled last season playing on the left side of the line. Connor Barwin, who was a cap causality this offseason, attributed his low sack production to being lined up on the right side.

    In the NFC East, the end on the right side has to go up against two Pro Bowlers twice a season in the Cowboys' Tyron Smith and the Redskins' Trent Williams. That's a big ask for a rookie.

    Head coach Doug Pederson said it's too early to tell where Barnett will line up this season.

    "Right now, it's just a matter of getting him out there and seeing which side he's comfortable on," Pederson said. "We want to work him on both sides of the defensive front - right and left. Right now it's just rookie camp, so it's kind of hard until we get him in here with the veterans and really get him working with our guys."

    Barnett said doesn't have a preference. He believes he can excel from either side.

    "I played both in college," he said. "Majority right, but I played left as well. To me, defensive end is defensive end. If you can play, you can play."

    Where Barnett did not expect to wind up is on special teams. But Friday, special teams coach Dave Fipp was working with Barnett.

    It's only May 12, so who knows how much Barnett will actually be used in that capacity. If he is able to carve out a big role on defense early on, the Eagles may opt to hold him out of their special teams' units. Then again, we've seen players like veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins and tight end Zach Ertz fill a spot when called upon.

    "If they need me to play that role, I will," Barnett said. "I didn't know they were going to ask me to, so I was a little thrown off, but I'm willing to do that. I'm willing to do anything on the field."

    Barnett still has long ways to go, and he understands that. He mentioned on several occasions that terminology has been his biggest obstacle, but he's eager to learn and not afraid to ask questions, either.

    It's hard to know what Barnett will bring to the Eagles in his rookie season. If he winds up struggling, it certainly won't be for lack of effort.

    "I feel like every time I walk out on the field, I got to prove something," Barnett said. "That's my mindset. I just try to attack the field every time I go to practice and try to have a game mentality."