Did Josh Sweat Just Arrive for the Eagles?
The Eagles are pretty banged-up at defensive end with Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham joining Derek Barnett on the injury list after Sunday's disappointing opening loss to the Washington Football Team.
In theory, that's Philadelphia's top three edge players but Josh Sweat, the lengthy third-year product out of Florida State, is starting to turn that kind of thinking on its head.
Curry went down with what coach Doug Pederson described as a "significant" hamstring injury and was placed on injured reserve and expected to miss at least a month, according to a source.
Graham is in the concussion protocol and the Eagles are hopeful that the veteran will be given the all-clear for the home-opener against the Los Angeles Rams. Barnett, meanwhile, is getting closer from a hamstring injury that erased much of training camp and Week 1 for the former first-round pick.
No matter who is available for Jim Schwartz, however, Sweat is going to be a big part of the plan moving forward after playing a career-high 49 snaps against the WFT, and generating the fastest sack in the NFL per NextGenStats at 2.3 seconds. His 91.9 Pro Football Focus grade was second in the league for edge players behind only Pittsburgh star T.J. Watt.
For further comparison Rams star Aaron Donald, almost universally regarded as the top defensive player in the league, was a social-media sensation for his dominant performance against Dallas on Sunday night and graded out at a 91.7.
"You guys saw (Sweat) in training camp," said Schwartz on Tuesday. "He's one of our most improved players."
Sweat was dominating as a situational rusher and, after the in-game njuries mounted, he became a fixture.
"I thought Vinny was playing really well in this game," said Schwartz. "The combination with those guys, keeping a good rotation, trying to keep all those guys fresh, was working out pretty well. Sweat was able to come in on some third downs and be fresh, look speedy and explosive."
Schwartz tracked the steady improvement of Sweat to the little things.
"Just consistency of what he's doing," said the DC. "I think it was regarding Josh that I threw that baseball analogy, the pitcher, the repeatable motion. You guys know I have a lot of baseball analogies. I think that's right on.
"Those guys that their motion looks different all the time, they can have a great pitch, then all of a sudden throw four balls, walk the bases loaded. And you just don’t know what you are getting."
Sweat played a lot inside in a two-gap system at FSU and needed some refinement when it came to technique.
"I think Josh has really taken that to heart," said Schwartz. "I think that Coach Burke (run game coordinator/defensive line coach Matt Burke) and Coach Washburn (director of player personnel/senior defensive assistant Jeremiah Washburn) and Coach Ollie (assistant defensive line coach Nathan Ollie) have really emphasized that kind of stuff, that repeatable motion, consistency of their stance, and get-off, those things. It's really shown through for him."
Once tabbed as a can't-mass player coming out of high school in Virginia before a major knee injury, Sweat's career trajectory took a detour but now appears back on track.
"He's always had a lot of ability, but like a lot of other players he just needed to refine his game a little bit more," Schwartz said. "I think he's going to be a big contributor for us this year."
John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every Monday and Friday on SIRIUSXM and every Monday and Thursday with Eytan Shander on SportsMap Radio. He’s also the host of Extending the Play on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
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