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Derek Barnett's Reputation May Have Led to Flag

Eagles DC Jonathan Gannon asked NFL for clarity on the DE's personal foul penalty, and here is more on the dwindling days of his time in Philadelphia as a first-round draft pick
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Derek Barnett has been given a rough ride from fans and media during his nearly five seasons with the Eagles.

Production never quite matched what is expected of a first-round pick, even though it’s not Barnett’s fault GM Howie Roseman, and his right-hand man at the time, Joe Douglas, liked him enough to select him 14th overall in 2017.

The defensive end, though, has made his share of plays during his time with the Eagles.

He was the one who recovered Brandon Graham’s strip-sack of Tom Brady in the Super Bowl that made Graham a hero forever in Philadelphia. If Barnett doesn’t recover it and a Patriots player does, Graham isn’t an icon and maybe the Eagles don’t win Super Bowl LII.

Barnett strip-sacked Vikings QB Case Keenum at the Eagles’ 20-yard line with the score of the 2017 NFC Championship Game still tied at 7-7. Vikings score there and who knows what happens with momentum and all that?

Those are big plays that are never talked about.

Instead, the stat everyone measures him by is the 21.5 sacks in 58 career games. He has just two this season. The most he’s had in one year was 6.5 in 2019.

And penalties. They are egregious, no doubt. He had the 11th personal foul penalty of his career during what would have been a sack of Denver’s Teddy Bridgewater and his untimely offsides penalties are infuriating.

Sunday’s personal foul flag may have, however, been one of reputation.

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Defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon said on Tuesday they sent a question about the play into the league to see why it was called. 

The flag was thrown late so there is the thought that Barnett pushed off Bridgewater too hard when getting up, but even the Eagles are unsure of the violation, though Gannon didn’t think that was it.

“We actually asked for some clarity from the NFL on that,” said Gannon. “Did he lead with his crown or did he fall on him with the bodyweight? … I looked at the tape. I mean, I think he was just getting up. But yeah you, obviously, want to get up, and slap him on the butt and say, ‘I'm going to come get you next time.’”

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Gannon said the NFL is always going to protect its quarterbacks and pointed out another incident in the game with Milton Williams.

“I think it was in the fourth quarter, and Milton did a good job of instead of landing on him- which that's hard you guys,” Gannon said to reporters. “They're going full speed, full tilt, and they're hitting a guy, and it’s bang, bang.

“And all of sudden, oh by the way, as you are falling to the ground on top of this guy, pull off the guy. But those are the rules. And so, we have to enforce that and continue to educate our players and tell them about that, ‘Hey, you can't land on a guy.’

“That's a tough rule for pressure players, whoever's hitting the quarterback, to, ‘Hey, as you're going to the ground, pull off.’ But those are the rules and we got to do a good job of it.”

The thing about Barnett is he’s always hustling, even as he sometimes plays outside the rules.

He was one of two players who helped pave the way for Darius Slay’s 83-yard touchdown return of a fumble forced by Davion Taylor. Barnett got a downfield block, with cornerback Avonte Maddox delivering another one.

Special team coordinator Michael Clay also praised Barnett’s play on special teams, especially his ability to block a kick or alter its direction.

RELATED: Michael Clay has Helped put "Special" Back in Special Teams ...

Barnett blocked a punt and a field goal during his rookie season and got a fingertip on a punt against Carolina earlier this year.

“He has the swim move that's really good. It's very powerful and it gets guys kind of off-balance a little,” said Clay on Tuesday. “And he's a pass rusher, he can squeak through and swivels those hips in and gets his hands up. It’s just one of those knacks where, as a pass rusher, you do it for so long and you can still do it on a field goal block.

“And he gets through and he gets his hands up really quick. He doesn't get it every time, but a lot of times, he does get his hands up. And when a kicker sees somebody there, it may affect him the next time. And he may push it, he may pull it. So, it's just one of those things some guys have a knack for it.”

With his rookie contract expiring at season's end, Barnett’s days as an Eagle are dwindling. Seven and counting unless there’s a playoff game in the future, and if there is, Barnett will have to play his part in making that happen.

The breakout season for him, however, never really came.

Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.