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Is Derek Barnett injury the straw that broke the camel’s back for Eagles defense?

First Tim Jernigan. Then Rodney McLeod. Then Sidney Jones. The Eagles have proven to be a remarkably resilient team, but will Derek Barnett's season-ending injury be one injury too many for Jim Schwartz's defense?

Eagles defensive end Derek Barnett goes after Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton on Sunday, October 21, 2018 in Philadelphia. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Eagles defensive end Derek Barnett goes after Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton on Sunday, October 21, 2018 in Philadelphia. YONG KIM / Staff PhotographerRead moreYong Kim

Another week, another major injury for the Next Man Up Gang.

Derek Barnett is out, and fourth-round rookie Josh Sweat, who has played just 15 defensive snaps this season, suddenly finds himself in the defensive end rotation for the Super Bowl champs with Brandon Graham, Michael Bennett, and Chris Long.

And while the Eagles' ability to overcome several key injuries and win a Super Bowl last season might make you believe that this team is the NFL equivalent of a starfish — and can lose an arm and simply regenerate another one — there is a limit to their resilience.

And quite frankly, the loss of Barnett just might be the breaking point for Jim Schwartz's defense.

Barnett, who tore the rotator cuff in his shoulder, joins safety Rodney McLeod, who is on injured reserve with a knee injury, and defensive tackle Tim Jernigan, who still is recovering from offseason back surgery, and nickel corner Sidney Jones, who will miss his second straight game Sunday with a hamstring injury.

"I mean, it's a hit,'' All-Pro defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said Wednesday as the 3-4 Eagles began preparations for Sunday's game in London against 3-4 Jacksonville. "Derek was playing at a really high level. To lose him is really tough.

"But we'll be OK. You won't see any drop-off. It's next man up, you know.''

Earlier in the day, coach Doug Pederson put on his smiley face and essentially said the same thing to reporters, because, well, it would've been poor form to show up in the NovaCare auditorium with a white flag.

"We've got some options still,'' he said. "We're still OK. Obviously, Josh will get more reps. It's a great opportunity for the guys that are healthy.''

As we saw in the fourth quarter of Sunday's collapse against Carolina, Jim Schwartz's secondary has some issues at the moment. Maybe executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman will come riding to the rescue before next week's trade deadline with some reinforcements, and maybe he won't.

Anyway, given the problems on the back end of the defense, Schwartz needs his defensive line to put it in overdrive.

The problem is, even with Barnett, the Eagles weren't exactly scaring the bejesus out of quarterbacks this season. They have just 18 sacks, which is the 15th most in the league through seven games, and are 20th in sacks per pass play.

They've had two or fewer sacks in four of their seven games. In the Vikings game, which Barnett missed after initially injuring his shoulder, Kirk Cousins completed 30 of 37 passes and was sacked just once.

Cox is one of the two best interior linemen in the league. But Jernigan's absence has left a major void next to him.

Thirty-four-year-old Haloti Ngata, who has missed the last three games with a calf injury, was a limited practice participant Wednesday. But he's strictly a part-time run-stuffer.

The team's other two defensive tackles, Treyvon Hester and rookie Bruce Hector, both have spent time on the team's practice squad this season.

"It's what you have,'' Schwartz said the other day. "I don't want to say it's like drawing cards. But [when] you play poker, you get the cards that you get. You can't turn all five of them in. You've got to play your hand.

"Ideally, you'd like to have a better [tackle] rotation, but that's not where we are right now. No, they're not.

And now they've also lost Barnett, their 2017 first-round draft pick.

"We trust him,'' Cox said of the 6-5, 251-pound Sweat. "I know [defensive line] Coach [Chris] Wilson trusts him. He's a young guy. But he'll do a good job. He's not new to this. He's been playing football all his life. He just needs to get used to the speed of the game.

"He's explosive. He's a guy that can rush the quarterback. He's really strong. He can push people around. And we're going to be expecting him to do that on Sundays.''

Hester played 34 snaps against the Panthers and Hector 21. Hector, an undrafted free agent out of the University of South Florida, split one of the Eagles' two sacks of Cam Newton with Brandon Graham.

"I was talking to Coach Wilson and I told him we have to trust those guys,'' Cox said of Hester and Hector. "At certain points in the game, when I can't go, we have to trust those guys to go in there and do the job."

Schwartz used Hester and Hector mostly on early downs. In sub-packages on passing downs, either Graham or Bennett usually will slide inside next to Cox.

But Bennett will turn 33 next month, the same age as Long, and Schwartz must be careful about overworking them. Long, who had 16 quarterback pressures in the first three games, has had just 11 in the last four. He has one sack this season and that came in Week 1 against the Falcons.

Which brings us back to Sweat.

"Losing Derek is tough, because he brings so many things to the game,'' said Bennett, who might've had his best game of the year in the Panthers' loss. "Losing him is hard on everybody.

"It's big shoes to fill for Josh. But he'll be OK. He has the ability to take coaching. He has the ability to apply the coaching. He has an explosive get-off. Lots of gifts to be a great defensive end.''

The Eagles need to find a way to get pressure, or their secondary will get hung out to dry. Dialing up more blitzes is a possibility. But Schwartz doesn't really like to blitz a lot.

That's been particularly the case this season. The Eagles have blitzed on just 16.8 percent of opponent pass plays, which is near the bottom of the league in blitz frequency. In the last two games, Schwartz has sent extra rushers on just five of 88 pass plays.