Philadelphia Eagles News

Camp Question: Instant Rookie Impact?

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This is the fifth and final in a series of five key Camp Questions for the Eagles heading into Training Camp.

Derek Barnett has big goals, big ideas, and a plan for his NFL future. But he's not one of those players who talks a lot and boasts. Instead, he's just going about the business of trying to make an impact as a rookie with the Eagles in 2017.

"This is just the start," Barnett said on Monday following the first practice of his first NFL Training Camp. "It's a long process, but I'm happy that I'm improving every day. That's really the goal. Just keep getting better. If I do that, I'm going to help this team."

The 14th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Barnett has every chance to be an impact rookie for the Eagles. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and defensive line coach Chris Wilson like to roll through their linemen to keep everyone fresh, so Barnett should have the chance to play some game reps. Whether he starts, well, we'll see about that.

Making an impact, a positive one, is critical for Barnett.

"I think they drafted me because they want me to contribute now and in the future," Barnett said. "It's my job to get ready."

How much impact can the Eagles expect from their Rookie Class in 2017? They'll need some, especially at the top.

Barnett is in the mix to be a starter at one defensive end position, but to earn that spot he will have to show he can do it every day. Second-round draft pick Sidney Jones is on the Non-Football Injury list and is continuing to rehabilitate his Achilles tendon. Third-round draft pick Rasul Douglas is in line to see meaningful reps, maybe even as a starter, at cornerback.

So there's a real chance the draft produces two early starters on defense. At the very least, both Barnett and Douglas will be key contributors.

Beyond that, fourth-round picks Mack Hollins and Donnel Pumphrey are working their way to help. Hollins adds to the depth at wide receiver and is also expected to aid the special teams. Pumphrey hopes to exhibit enough versatility to get some snaps on offense. He'll also get some work in the preseason on special teams to see what he can do.

Wide receiver Shelton Gibson is vying for a spot at a crowded and talented position, linebacker Nathan Gerry hopes to make the transition from college safety, and sixth-round pick Elijah Qualls has every intention of showing the Eagles he can add something to the defensive tackle spot.

So, yeah, it's fair to say that this draft class has a chance to make an instant impact. How much, of course, we won't know until September. It may not seem like a long time, but in the context of the NFL, it's a ways away.

"Don't look ahead. That's what guys tell me. Just focus on the day to day," Pumphrey said. "Things move so fast here that you don't have a chance to look into the future. You need to stay on point."

The Eagles, for the most part, stayed true to their board during the draft and followed the best-player-available strategy. Barnett was ranked as one of the top eight players and the team was thrilled he was there at No. 14 overall. They have been nothing but pleased with what he's shown through the spring to now: A great burst, a unique bend around the edge, and the ability to close on the quarterback.

Barnett has, truly, a chance to be special. Making a positive imprint in Year 1 would be a good start. For Barnett. For the entire rookie class. And for the Eagles.

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