The moment is not too big for first-round draft pick Derek Barnett. The 20-year-old defensive end has handled every situation with professionalism early in his Eagles career, and his level of comfort, he says, grows every day.
"It gets better and better," Barnett said. "It's a lot of hard work, and I like that. I think I've adjusted to the tempo pretty well. It's a lot of technique and it's about being consistent. I know I have a long way to go, but I'm happy with where I am."
So are the Eagles. Barnett is quick off the ball and he's got the burst the Eagles expected when they made him the 14th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Every day in this Organized Team Activity period, the idea is to perfect the craft of playing the defensive end position for the Eagles.
Some of what Barnett does is natural – his bend around the edge is remarkable and his get-off is already very fast. The rest of it – the hand placement, taking the right steps, setting up offensive tackles – comes with repetition.
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz offered a thorough scouting report of Barnett on Tuesday:
"He's really tough. He's got a great center of balance," Schwartz said. "He's not on the ground very much. He's got some things to work on, like any rookie. But he was an effective player (at the University of Tennessee). I think that against all competition he was consistent from game to game.
"He's tough as can be. He's good against the run and good against pass – played right and played left. All those things led us to draft him. How much he can contribute (and) how quickly he can be ready is up to him and coaches. It's our job to get him ready to be out there. But we're really excited about him. He can turn a corner and be like this high off the ground. You guys will notice that when you see him out there. He's also been giving great effort in practice. We've pointed out his effort a couple times – chasing the ball and those kinds of things. For a rookie to do that kind of stuff has been pretty impressive so far."
So, it's early. Far too early to make any kind of Barnett-has-arrived kind of statements. The early returns from the team are encouraging, and Barnett is pleased with his progress as well.
Let's keep in mind that there is no tackling at this stage of the offseason. Training Camp, when it begins in late July, offers the next real challenge.
"I'm not looking ahead," Barnett said. "I am just here doing my work day by day. Things move fast and our days are filled, so it makes no sense to look ahead. I'm glad to be here learning from guys like Chris Long and BG (Brandon Graham) and Vinny (Curry). Those guys have been great to work with. They show me how much more I have to learn."
Sure, it's early, but isn't it better to feel encouraged by the progress made by the first-round pick? The Eagles are thrilled with his progress, very aware that the true mark of success is measured in the long term, not the few weeks of an OTA session.
The media photo shoots continued for the Eagles on Thursday at the NovaCare Complex...