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Josh Sweat: 'I've Been Eager To Play'

When it was announced on Wednesday that defensive end Derek Barnett would miss the rest of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery, all eyes turned to rookie Josh Sweat as the next man up.

The 6-5, 251-pound defensive end was drafted in the fourth round (130th overall) in 2018 and was active in the Eagles' previous three games in which he played a combined 15 snaps on defense. He will be expected to help fill the void Barnett leaves in the Eagles' defensive end rotation.

It will be a tough task for the rookie. But the Eagles' coaching staff has faith in his ability.

"I think he's done a great job," Pederson said in his press conference Wednesday. "He's working the service team, working his reps there, and he's getting time with the D-line and does a great job. I think he's explosive off the ball, he's long, has been around the passer, can be disruptive, so this will be a great opportunity for him."

Sweat has played on the scout team in practice and has consistently battled against the first-team offense. He said he's learned a lot from his teammates, he's fresh, and he is ready for the challenge.

"I've been eager to play, obviously, but like I said, I've just been staying ready," Sweat said. "I get quite a bit of reps at practice. I've been on scout team, so I get to play against the ones a lot so it's not that bad, I've been ready the whole time."

"He's explosive, he's long, he's athletic," said defensive line coach Chris Wilson last Thursday. "And the learning curve, he learns well. That's the one thing that I noticed, that he has the ability to process things for a young guy. For a lot of young guys, it takes some time to really understand but our vets have done a good job bringing him in and they see that he can add to us."

Sweat will join an extremely experienced line with talented veterans like Michael Bennett, Brandon Graham, and Chris Long. It is an ideal situation for a young player learning how to be effective with an increased number of snaps.

The challenge will be getting up to speed with a group Sweat hasn't played with extensively. But Sweat has been aided by his teammates' encouragement.

"They're behind, they support me, and they trust me and I trust them, so I'm ready to roll and they believe in me," Sweat said. "It helps me tremendously especially because I haven't shown them anything in a game yet and for them to say that they trust me and they're ready for me to go out there and they trust that I can do what I'm supposed to, that helps me out a lot. Makes me a lot more comfortable."

Bennett, a 10-year veteran, didn't downplay the difficulty of Sweat's new role. He said it's tough for the team to lose someone of Barnett's talent and he doesn't want there to be too much pressure on Sweat as he tries to fill Barnett's shoes.

But Bennett studies with Sweat "a lot" and knows the talent and work ethic he possesses. He is prepared to let Sweat make rookie mistakes and guide him along the way.

"I think Josh is going to be a good player," Bennett said. "I think Josh has shown that he has the ability to take coaching and apply the coaching and work as hard as he can. He has an explosive get-off and I think overall he has a lot of great gifts to be a great defensive end."

Sunday will be Sweat's real NFL debut for all intents and purposes. While he has appeared in two games and has been active for three, he has only played for 15 snaps with one tackle. Against the Jaguars, he will see significantly more playing time and have more opportunities to show out.

On top of that, the game will be on an international stage at London's Wembley Stadium. It should be a special game for the young player who has never left the country.

"It's a big deal," Sweat said. "It's still the next game but it excites me a lot more to do it on such a large scale. It's a little bit bigger but I'm excited for it."

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