Philadelphia Eagles’ Derek Barnett starts developing first-hand opinion of Jim Schwartz
PHILADELPHIA — Before he developed into a record-breaking edge rusher at Tennessee or landed with the Eagles as their 2017 first-round pick, Derek Barnett was a Nashville kid enamored with his hometown NFL team.
Philly’s newest defensive end said he grew up watching the Titans in the mid-2000s, learning to adore their bruising defenses that featured stars like Keith Bulluck and Jevon Kearse.
And this week, Barnett’s begun to forge a relationship with the man who directed those units. But he’s not a young fan anymore. Barnett will compete to fill a crucial role for the Eagles, and his relationship with defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz — who held the same job in Tennessee from 2001 to ’08 — will help dictate how the early part of his career unfolds.
So far, so good. Barnett said Friday he’s enjoyed his first few conversations with Schwartz, a fiery coach with nearly 30 years of experience.
“He’s a very high energy guy,” Barnett said after the first practice of rookie minicamp. “He’s got some good jokes.”
The all-time sacks leader at Tennessee declined to repeat any of Schwartz’s quips, which might have been a smart move. Schwartz owns a reputation for displaying his passion through his language and actions, and it’s unlikely his jokes are friendly enough for a family newspaper.
But Barnett was willing to say he’s already learned the on-field traits that matter to his coach.
“He’s just all about attacking,” Barnett said, “and get to your landmarks and get to the quarterback and make plays.”
That is the mantra Schwartz touts. He doesn’t want his defensive linemen to worry much about coverages or drawing extra attention from blockers or filling a particular lane; he’d rather they just bust into the backfield to cause havoc.
Eagles rookie defensive end Derek Barnett meets the media
It’s an approach that appeals to Barnett, but one that will take some adjustment. In college, Barnett fancied himself a film buff, who could gain his edge over opponents by studying their habits and exploiting their weaknesses.
While the 6-foot-3, 259-pound pass-rusher still wants to use game tape to his advantage in Philadelphia, he knows he’ll have to play faster. According to Barnett, that’s one of the first things Schwartz told him.
“He said, ‘Be aggressive and don’t read,'” Barnett said. “In college sometimes I had to read a little bit. Now, I have to just forget that and just go. But that’s not going to come in one day. It’s going to come through reps.”
Schwartz, to be sure, will watch many of those repetitions closely, much like Barnett honed in on Titans games as a kid.
It’s all part of the maturation process for a 20-year-old rookie aiming to shine as an NFL defensive end. The jokes and conversations with Schwartz are important to his development, Barnett said.
And Schwartz’s trademark profanity might play a role in Barnett’s development, too, though he hasn’t heard a lot of it yet.
“Not too much,” Barnett said. “But I’m sure it’s coming.”