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Kick Off Camp: A special return and lessons learned from the preseason

Derek Barnett
Derek Barnett

Derek Barnett had a much different view of the Eagles' run to the Super Bowl last season than in his rookie year of 2017. 

The former first-round pick was part of one of the most impactful defensive plays in franchise history when he recovered Tom Brady's fumble forced by Brandon Graham in Super Bowl LII. 

However, Barnett's 2022 campaign lasted just 12 defensive snaps in the season opener before he suffered a torn ACL that sidelined him the rest of the way. As the Eagles' defense posted a league-best 70 sacks, tied for third most in NFL history, Barnett toiled behind the scenes. 

"I was excited following them because they were having a great year," Barnett said. "Everybody's playing well -- offense, defense, special teams -- so it was awesome watching guys go on the hunt every week, get sacks and celebrating with each other. It just made me focus more on my rehab so I could get back out there with the guys. Everybody goes through injury, so everybody has to deal with that eventually at some point in their career." 

Forget chasing down quarterbacks. Barnett just wanted to be able to walk and go up and down stairs again, things that one takes for granted when healthy. 

"It's been a challenging process, but a good process though," he said. 

Barnett opened Training Camp as a limited participant and on Sunday, August 6 -- during the Public Practice at Lincoln Financial Field -- he was full-go and hasn't looked back. He harassed linemen in the joint practices with the Browns and Colts, and suited up for the first two preseason contests before being held out for Thursday night's finale. 

Known as one of the toughest players on the roster, the Eagles welcome back Barnett's relentless motor and bend off the edge. It's not often that a team with three established Pro Bowl pass rushers like Brandon Graham, Haason Reddick, and Josh Sweat can add a seasoned veteran with 65 career games, 36 tackles for loss, and 21.5 sacks. 

"Still a work in progress," Barnett said. "It just felt good to get back out there with my teammates."

Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro on the latest Stoutland University student

This was a move that almost nobody noticed back in 2022 when the Eagles, cruising through the season at that time, signed offensive tackle Fred Johnson to the practice squad. Johnson had been waived a week earlier by Tampa Bay, his third NFL team in four seasons.

Fred Johnson? Who? What? Why?

"I came in and worked out and they liked what they saw back then and I was looking around at this great team and wondering, 'Why did they even bring me in?' I kind of just went with their belief and they're passion with this," Johnson said after signing a two-year contract through the 2024 season and then playing an outstanding first half in Thursday's preseason finale against Indianapolis at Lincoln Financial Field. "Everybody believed in what they were doing as a team and the offensive linemen, they all believed in Coach (Jeff) Stout (Stoutland). I saw all of these 'Stoutland University' shirts and I knew they had something special going on here."

Spadaro: What did we learn about the Eagles this summer?

Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro offered nine takeaways from Training Camp and the preseason, including this one:

Quarterback Jalen Hurts looked great from start to finish. In the summer of 2022, he worked on developing chemistry with his receiving corps. That has long since been on point, and Hurts was on the same page all summer with tight end Dallas Goedert and his receivers – notably DeVonta Smith, A.J. Brown, and Quez Watkins.

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Kelly Green Block Party

August 31st at 5-10 PM

Grab your Kelly Green Gear and join us for the first ever, Eagles Kelly Green Block Party!

Celebrate the long awaited return of Kelly Green on Fairmount Avenue surrounded by birds fans. This event is FREE for Eagles fans of all ages and does not require a ticket to attend.

Who shined in the preseason finale?

The Eagles fell to the Colts 27-13 in the third and final preseason game for 2023. Who put forth a strong final case to make the 53-player roster, which has to be determined by Tuesday at 4 PM?

Check out the best images from Training Camp, presented by Independence Blue Cross, as the Eagles whittle the roster to 53 and prepare for the 2023 season.

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