Eagles are counting on ‘Sweat’ Equity
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Josh Sweat wasn't lobbying for any support on Friday but the second-year defensive end had a bit of an admiration society unveiling itself inside and outside of the NovaCare Complex.
Whether it was his boss at the podium, his old teammate on Twitter or the All-Pro that lines up on the other side of the football, the Florida State product who just looks like an NFL edge rusher was getting some positive feedback.
As he often does, Lane Johnson provided the most colorful description of Sweat's potential on the 2019 Eagles.
“Gonna be big f@$%ing things from him this year," the big right tackle offered when passing a handful of reporters querying Sweat.
The scribes were there because defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz had just got done his first press conference of the summer, some of it spent expressing the big things the Eagles hope to get from Sweat during his sophomore campaign.
"We're excited about him," Schwartz said. "He's long. He can play with some power. He has speed. He's around the passer when he rushes because he's so long. There are a lot of good things with him. He just needs to have a good camp, and I think he's focused to be able to do that."
The opportunity is there for Sweat with both Michael Bennett and Chris Long gone from the NovaCare Complex. A star Twitter-er [is that a word?] Long joked about Sweat taking his nine snaps but professed his love for Sweat as a player and person.
A rare 245-pound two-gap player in college at Florida State, Sweat spent his downtime adding 22 pounds to his lanky frame, all while keeping the freaky athleticism that made him one of the top high-school recruits in the country until a devastating knee injury threatened his very career.
"He's strong as can be," Schwartz said. "He played two-gap at Florida State. I mean, you look at him, he looks like a 400-meter sprinter. He was legs wide, squared up, doing those kind of things. He has some of the strongest hands of all our defensive linemen, which then you start putting him into situations where he can use his speed a little bit more. It's a bonus that a lot of other guys don't have. He's very strong."
That knee -- Sweat has said he will need to wear a brace for his entire career -- along with the poor scheme fit at FSU, and his lack of bulk turned the Virginia native into a Day 2 pick
At his current 265 pounds, though, who knows where Sweat might have been selected in April of 2018.
"I’m a lot more explosive than I was," Sweat surmised. "I did a lot of fast-twitch stuff like squats and stuff like that, so I wanted to make sure I could stay explosive."
On Saturday Sweat, who has been the backup right defensive end behind Vinny Curry while Derek Barnett continues to work his way back from shoulder surgery, was seen dueling with 2019 first-round pick Andre Dillard in one-on-one work. Both had the advantage on certain reps and it was dubbed a stalemate by most watching.
For now Sweat is penciled in as the fourth DE behind Brandon Graham, Barnett and Curry and ahead of rookie fourth-round pick Shareef Miller and Joe Ostman. Schwartz doesn't expect him to replace the production of veterans gone but contribute to a new look front.
"I say it all the time to our players: the defensive line is the engine that runs this defense," Schwartz said. "Those guys embrace that. They know they have to set the tempo for our team being physical, swarm around the quarterback, chase the ball, all those different things.
"But I think every team is a little bit different. I don't necessarily view one [last year's line] as better than the other. Everybody has a little different strengths and weaknesses."
Nonetheless, Sweat jokingly understood how this opportunity came about for him.
"They’re gone," he said of Bennett and Long. "I got pushed up by default."
Building NFL rosters is an inexact science and the league-wide sentiment is generally "better to give up on a player a year too early than a year too late." That's easier to implement when you have confidence in a younger player.
And that's where the Eagles are with Sweat.
"It's a huge difference between being a rookie, trying to learn, and trying to adapt," Schwartz said. "It's not just the on-the-field. Off the field, he was battling some injuries. To come back the second year, have it all under your belt, the experience of getting a little bit of playing time. You say the game slows down. That's a real common cliche."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen