Eagles' 14th Pick Derek Barnett Aims on Improving in One Key Area

Derek Barnett has the unique distinction of being the only player this year who was drafted in the same city where he'll play next season.

In fact, the commissioner called his name just five miles from the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia. He could have walked to his new football home.

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So Friday was pretty fun.

The Eagles' first-round pick was driven to Lincoln Financial Field, where he got a tour of the stadium and was then brought across the street to the NovaCare Complex, where he got to meet some more of his new coaches.

"The day's been fun for me," said Barnett, clad in a gray shadowbox suit with an Eagles lapel pin. "I've enjoyed myself. I can't wait until we start rookie camp and get around ball some more."

He can't wait to trade in that suit for his new No. 96 jersey. Rookie camp starts on May 12. 

But the work will start as soon as leaves the building on Friday. 

"I'm going to have my iPad, so I'll be able to start learning the defense," Barnett said. 

On Thursday night, shortly after making the pick, Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas stood at the same podium in the Eagles' auditorium and praised Barnett for his tenacity, character, work ethic and technique. 

The next day, the humble 20-year-old talked about wanting to come in and learn from the team's veteran players and didn't hesitate when asked which area he wants to improve the most. 

"My eye discipline," he said. "Sometimes I like to put my eyes in the backfield too fast before defeating my block. So I think I need to continue to work on my eye discipline."

How will he do that?  

"Focusing on my work, making sure I'm beating my block," he answered. "If I'm going against the tight end, making sure I'm beating him first before I put my eyes in the backfield."

Barnett might not be the best athletic specimen as a prospect, but he makes up for it with his relentlessness and focus on technique, a lot of which was taught to him by coach Steve Stripling at Tennessee (see story)

But Barnett teaches himself plenty, too. He watches other great pass rushers, including Michael Bennett and previously Michael Strahan. He even went back and watched tape of Reggie White, whose sack record he broke in college. He wanted to learn White's "hump" move, but decided it wasn't for him.

Barnett, while dealing with the flu, weighed in at the combine at 259 pounds, but said he'll put on as much weight as the Eagles' coaching staff wants him to. He thinks it won't affect his speed. 

The Eagles' newest defensive end is humble, but eager. He can't wait to get around his new teammates as he transitions into the NFL. 

"I'm not going to sit back and wait my turn, but I'm going to come in and learn my role first," he said, "and get around these vets and learn what I have to do first to get on the field. Me being a first-round pick doesn't mean anything, it doesn't guarantee me a spot. I still have to come in and work and gain respect first."

The work starts now. 

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