1st-rounder Derek Barnett Making Eagles Look Smart

After blocking a field goal and recovering it on Sunday, Derek Barnett was probably a little too hard on himself. 

He thinks he should have scored. 

"It was all green grass in front of me," Barnett said. "But next time."

Barnett ended up going eight yards after he scooped up the loose ball. He got it after Jalen Mills and Malcolm Jenkins failed to corral it.  

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Seconds earlier, Barnett sliced through the 49ers' line to get both paws on the 27-yard field goal attempt off the foot of veteran Robbie Gould in the fourth quarter. Barnett said he was confident he was going to block the ball once the call was made. It was the first field goal block of his football career. It was also the first time Gould has ever missed a field goal inside 30 yards - he was previously 93 for 93.

The Eagles scored on the ensuing drive and beat the 49ers 33-10. 

Aside from special teams, Barnett is starting to look like the guy the Eagles hoped they were getting when they drafted 14th overall in the spring. 

After a two-sack game last week, Barnett chipped in on Sunday with two tackles, two QB hits and a tackle for loss that came against former Pro Bowler Joe Staley. 

"I feel a lot more comfortable," Barnett said. "I feel like the game is slowing down for me now. I am just focusing on every play and not doing too much with my job. If I do my job and focus on my assignments, the plays will come to me. At first, a lot of the old heads told me I was doing well, to be patient, keep on working, it's gonna come. Now it is starting to come because I am doing the techniques they are teaching us and everything will fall into place."

On that tackle for a loss against Staley, Barnett pretty much threw the 6-foot-5, 315-pound left tackle to the ground before taking down Carlos Hyde for a one-yard loss in the second quarter. 

It's a play he might not have made earlier in the season. One of the biggest adjustments he's been trying to make since arriving in the NFL is being more powerful in his rushes and "not trying to finesse everything." He's learned that relying on his speed rush like he did in college won't be enough in the NFL. Switching up his rushes has been Barnett's primary focus so far during his rookie season. 

Veteran Chris Long has been on the second unit with Barnett all season. And he doesn't think the rookie's solid play is anything new. 

"I thought he had things figured out early in the year," Long said. "He went out and had two sacks last week so everybody says, 'Oh, now he's a different player.' He's been winning rushes all year. It goes back to the sacks thing. That kid's been playing well all year. I'm glad it's coming to fruition for him statistically so people on the outside can see what a good player he is and what he's gonna be. So I'm excited for him."

Barnett didn't pick up his first NFL sack until he was credited with half of one against Carolina a few weeks ago. He didn't get his first solo sack until last week against Washington. Before then he showed passes, but it seems like he's becoming more and more consistent. 

Because of Long and Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry, it went kind of unnoticed for weeks that Barnett hadn't gotten his first sack. It seems like thanks to the play of the starters in front of him, there's less pressure on Barnett than some other first-round picks. 

That's now how Barnett sees it. 

"I wouldn't say it takes the pressure off of me," he said. "I put pressure on myself. But having those guys in front of me, I get to learn a lot. Vinny and BG, they're two good defensive ends, solid. They can rush the passer and they can stop the run. In practice, even if I'm not in that moment, or in games, I can watch those two guys to see what they're doing. If they make a mistake, I can learn from their mistakes so I won't make the same mistakes as them. It's been a blessing for me to come in and be in a position ... we have a lot of guys who have played a lot of football in front of me. I'm just learning a lot more. I feel like I'm learning the game a lot faster."

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