The Philadelphia Eagles, for numerous reasons, have not been playing particularly well. They are in the grips of what some have called an injury epidemic. But life in the NFL never stands still and for one Eagles rookie the most recent birds’ injury means opportunity.
The Eagles announced earlier this week that Derek Barnett will not play again in 2018 after tearing his rotator cuff. Barnett has provided consistent pressure despite hurting his shoulder earlier in the season. He tried to play through it but Sunday saw things come to a head and he decided he couldn’t go on anymore.
Enter then Eagles fourth-round pick, Josh Sweat. Viewed as a luxury and a developmental pick at the time, Sweat seems part of the solution to replace Barnett. As a former top recruit at Florida State, Sweat is no stranger to lofty expectations. Whilst he’s unlikely to be counted on too much individually, the Eagles defensive line is one of the NFL’s best and the ever demanding Eagles fans are unlikely to accept shaky performances. Good thing then that NFL.com’s Gil Brandt had Sweat ranked as the 69th best player in the 2018 NFL draft.
So what does Sweat bring to the table? He’s 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds. That’s a great place to start. Ranked second in run defense by CBS writer Chris Trapasso, he was above names like Saints first round pick Marcus Davenport. However, he’s still developing as an edge rusher and will get the chance to develop this skill early and often in the Eagles aggressive defence. Sweat has received a lot of praise for his ‘bend’.
To me it seems like ‘bend’ has become one of the most sought after traits in pass rushers. Watching the Sunday Night Game this week, Von Miller was praised for his bend but it may be a phrase that the casual fan is unfamiliar with. So what is bend? For an NFL pass rusher it’s an ‘insane athleticism and ankle flexibility to accelerate off the line, dip low underneath the outstretched arms of an offensive tackle then bend tightly to the quarterback’ writes Chris Trapasso.
Sweat is just 21 years old and finished his collegiate career with 138 tackles, including 29 tackles for a loss. He also collected 14.5 sacks, six passes defensed, an interception and a forced fumble. Sweat certainly doesn’t lack confidence “I’m ready to go,” Sweat said in Philadelphia on Wednesday. All indications suggest that he is fully recovered from a horrific knee injury suffered in college.
Whilst he’s unlikely to receive all of Barnett’s snaps, proving he can be trusted as part of the rotation will be a huge boost for the Eagles. It often takes rookies time to acclimatise to the speed of the NFL and this is reflected in the fact Sweat has played just 15 defensive snaps. Sweat is confident though, “I’ve been ready to go for the longest [time]. I thought I’d be playing a lot sooner. It hasn’t worked out like that. I’ve always been ready. … I always practice hard. I always run to the ball. I’m ready.”
Its unlikely that Sweat shines like Von Miller, Khalil Mack and Aaron Donald but with the current Eagles line he won’t have to. Solid tackling and a push in the pass rush will see Sweat’s play time increase and with a sack or two in front of the Wembley crowd Sweat may draw more attention.