Eagles 2020 breakout candidate: Is this the year for Derek Barnett?

Dave Zangaro
NBC Sports Philadelphia

Over two weeks, I'm taking a look at 10 Eagles players who might be primed for a breakout season in 2020. I have already looked at Boston Scott, K'Von Wallace, Sidney Jones, T.J. Edwards, Jalen Reagor and Isaac Seumalo

Up today: Derek Barnett

Age: 23

How acquired: 2017 1st-round pick  

Entering: Year 4

It's hard to believe but Derek Barnett is entering the fourth year of his NFL career in 2020. While Barnett has not been a bust, it's also fair to say he hasn't lived up to his draft position as the 14th-overall selection back in 2017. 

He's been an average NFL starter. 

But since he doesn't even turn 24 until later this month, Barnett still has a chance to become a star player and have that breakout season we've all been waiting for. 

In the first three years of his career, Barnett has played in 35 games with 20 starts. He became a full-time starter in 2018 and it looked like he was going to have a chance to break out that season but a shoulder injury and subsequent surgery ended that campaign after just six games. 

In 2019, he battled more injuries, missing two games. 

That's the first thing. Barnett needs to stay healthy. Jim Schwartz called Barnett "one of the toughest players I've ever been around," which is great. But Barnett has been hurt for a good portion of his career. He tried to play through that shoulder injury in 2018 and then last year he played through a bad ankle sprain that really seemed to bother him. Because he's so tough, we don't always hear about all his ailments. 

At times, Barnett has shown flashes of the first-round talent he was coming out of Tennessee in 2017, but he hasn't been that guy week in and week out. That's a problem. He needs more consistency. 

In three years, Barnett has 14 sacks, 49 quarterback hits and 109 total pressures. Decent numbers but not good enough. If you're looking for a reason why this might be the time for Barnett to break out, in the final three games of 2019, Barnett had 3.0 sacks in must-win games. 

Barnett also needs to be more disciplined. In 2019, he was the Eagles' second-most penalized player and was called for three unnecessary roughness penalties. 

Here's a look at Barnett's stats in his first three seasons: 

2017: 15 games, 0 starts, 5.0 sacks, 21 tackles, 8 TFL, 1 FF, 2 FR, 16 QBH

2018: 6 games, 6 starts, 2.5 sacks, 16 tackles, 5 TFL, 11 QBH

2019: 14 games, 14 starts, 6.5 sacks, 30 tackles, 10 TFLs, 2 FF, 22 QBH 

So Barnett's best season came last year and he has been steadily improving since he entered the league and since becoming the Eagles' starting RDE. The Eagles already picked up his fifth-year option for 2021 but that's a non-guaranteed deal, meaning the Eagles aren't yet on the hook for that ~$10 million salary. 

Barnett's performance in 2020 will let us know whether he's worth that kind of money or not. 

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Eagles 2020 breakout candidate: Is this the year for Derek Barnett? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

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