When Derek Barnett returned to the Eagles’ defensive end rotation against the Cowboys, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz thought he’d need a pitch count.
The former first-round pick out of Tennessee hadn’t played since Dec. 1, when he injured his ankle against the Miami Dolphins but finished the game. He was sidelined during practice most of last week, limited on the Friday session before the game, but still managed to play 73 percent of the defensive snaps during Sunday’s 17-9 win over Dallas.
Barnett’s toughness garnered high praise from Schwartz during the coach’s Tuesday news conference.
“I can speak to his toughness because he’s one of the toughest players I’ve ever been around,” Schwartz said. "The fact that he played the second half of that Miami game with that ankle just was really amazing to me — and to play as well as he did.
“I think he’s always been a guy that will lay it all on the line. He’s not the biggest guy in the world, not the fastest guy in the world, but he is one of the toughest guys in the world," Schwartz added.
The 2017 draft pick has 4.5 sacks this season and a career-high 18 quarterback hits so far this season. He’s battled injuries for much of his career, including a rotator cuff injury last season that required surgery. He came into training camp still healing from the shoulder issue but was in the lineup for the season opener against Washington.
“We really didn’t know how much we were going to be able to get out of him [against Dallas,]” Schwartz said. “It got close to game time and we really just treated it like he was any other player. Thought we might have to have a pitch count, watch and see what things he could do and everything else. But he just went out and played well for us.”