Fletcher Cox Mentoring Derek Barnett, Says DE ‘Worked His Butt Off’

Derek Barnett

Getty The Eagles drafted Derek Barnett in the first round (14th overall) in 2017.

The never-ending debate over whether Derek Barnett is a first-round bust has hit a crescendo. He’s out to prove to the whole world the Eagles made the right pick, per one All-Pro teammate.

Barnett, the 14th overall selection in 2017, recorded a career-high 6.5 sacks in 2019 and the oft-injured defensive end played in 14 regular-season games. It was an up-and-down year for the former first-round pick who “didn’t take a corresponding step forward as a player,” according to Pro Football Focus.

Throw that sample size out the window, says Fletcher Cox. Barnett has been putting in the time this summer and his Pro Bowl teammate is anxious to see the results.

“Derek is one of the guys that I kept in real close contact with all offseason and I know he’s worked his butt off,” Cox told reporters on Wednesday. “I know he’s had a couple of injuries and missed a couple of seasons but I know Derek … he always feels like — I know when he was drafted — he had a point to prove, to anybody, to the whole world. But Derek always shows up and is ready to go … focused on his job, always ready to learn more so I’m excited for Derek, too.”

The Eagles saw enough in Barnett to exercise the fifth-year option on his rookie contract and keep him in Philadelphia through 2021 at a rate of $10 million. It’s a gamble for the organization but a bet they are willing to take on a guy who broke Reggie White’s career sack record at Tennessee.

The Eagles are going to need Barnett to step up since they return only one starting defensive end (Brandon Graham), plus a mid-season surprise (Josh Sweat) and two promising young stars (Genard Avery, Shareef Miller). Seventh-round pick Casey Toohill will also be fighting for a roster spot at defensive end, along with fan-favorite Joe Ostman.

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Cox Hosts Eagles D-Line for Crazy Ranch Weekend

Cox invited a bunch of his teammates on the defensive line to his Shady Trell Ranch in Jacksboro, Texas in late May. The trip was one part bonding experience, another part serious training in the Texas humidity.

In all, about 15 players went down to hang out and meet Cox’s personal trainer Deon Hodges. They worked on things like technique, footwork and strength and conditioning.

“I told all the guys, ‘Hey, if you feel safe coming down let’s all get together as a group, as a D-line unit, and try and knock some things out,'” Cox said. “Everybody had fun, to say the least. A bunch of guys did stuff they never have done before, so I was very happy to present that to those guys.”

Cox said he introduced them to horseback riding — a foreign concept to both Barnett and Bruce Hector — and skeet shooting. The All-Pro defensive tackle couldn’t hold back the laughter when remembering the expressions on some of the guys’ faces. Apparently California native Malik Jackson couldn’t handle the flies and mosquitoes, so he mostly stayed inside.

“Malik didn’t really like the mosquitoes. He’s a Cali kid so the mosquitoes and the flies, he kind of stayed inside,” Cox said. “We shot some skeet … they never done that, everybody sucked at first until about 20 minutes into it and everybody starting catching on to it.”

For the record, Cox made sure everyone stayed safe (read: coronavirus free) by having his maids constantly clean the sheets and spray down the rooms. He understands the risk of just one person on that defensive line getting sick.

“The defensive line, we have to be the group that leads this team,” Cox said. “I’m really looking forward to it.”

Barnett Out to Prove He Was ‘Worth That Pick’

The Eagles are loaded at defensive tackle, to the tune of 54 career sacks. They should be an elite unit, one of the best in the NFL. That’s not the problem. The questions have arisen over a young and shaky defensive ends room, anchored by Brandon Graham, and in need of a huge helping of Barnett.

The 24-year-old spent part of his offseason working out with former Eagles defensive line coach Jim Washburn in Santa Fe, Tennesee. The gnarly old football coach revealed to NJ Advance Media that Barnett “wants to prove that he was worth that pick.” Washburn believes that Barnett will do it this year, if he can stay healthy.

“I feel like (this season) the Eagles, without a shadow of a doubt, will have the best (defensive line) production that they’ve had in a while,” Washburn told Mike Kaye. “He wants to prove that he was worth that pick. I believe he will. He’s just got to stay healthy.”

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