Philadelphia Eagles’ Josh Sweat in position to replace Chris Long following ‘frustrating’ rookie season
PHILADELPHIA Josh Sweat isn’t dwelling on his disappointing rookie season.
The Philadelphia Eagles defensive end is focused on what’s in front of him. Sweat is competing for a major role in the team’s defensive end rotation.
“I’ve always been confident,” Sweat told NJ Advance Media on Thursday. “I’ve always thought I had what it took to [play] but I’m in a good place. I feel like I’ll be in a big role so I’m just taking it day by day.”
Following a strong performance in the offseason program, Sweat seems to be the front runner to replace recently retired locker room leader Chris Long.
He’s “in a great place right now,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said on Thursday.
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Sweat is more comfortable in his second NFL offseason. He is well rested and understands the defense.
Really, everything feels different from an up and down rookie year.
“As a college player, being drafted, you go straight from the season into your workouts for the combine,” Sweat said. “Then you go straight into the NFL season, so it’s a lot harder. I got a lot of rest [this offseason], got a lot of good training, it wasn’t back to back all the time, so my body is feeling a lot better and I already know the system.”
Sweat appeared in nine games during his rookie season, producing a tackle and one quarterback hit. He played just 68 snaps on defense before being shut down for the season with an ankle injury.
Even Sweat, a fourth round pick out of Florida State last year, admits his rookie season was a disappointment.
“It was very frustrating,” Sweat said. “I’m not trying to sound cocky but I thought I had what it took to play a lot more It didn’t happen that way but I still went to work every day at practice. It didn’t matter . I didn’t play a lot but I was ready to go.”
Now, Sweat is back on the trajectory that had some pegging him as a first round talent before he ultimately fell to the fourth round due to injury concerns.
The 22 year old was a standout throughout the spring and he is making a legitimate case to take over for Long in the defensive end rotation.
His work against the Eagles’ second team offensive line has garnered praise from coaches and media during the offseason program.
“I don’t even hear it,” Sweat said of the offseason compliments. “Even if I did, I would approach every day the same way. I go all out. You can ask anyone around [the locker room], I give a full effort every time, whether I mess up a play or not. The praise is good and all but last year I thought I was going to do a lot more than I did or have a lot more opportunities and it didn’t work out that way.”
## ## It helps that Sweat had a year to learn from Long, too.
“He helped me a lot while [he] was here,” Sweat said of Long. “We haven’t really reached out to each other or anything like that, but I still learned a lot from him and everybody else from last year. I’ve got enough to go off of already.”
Sweat’s athleticism and length make him a strong fit for defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s Wide 9 front. With added space to attack the line, Sweat’s burst and quickness could serve as major assets in the Eagles’ pass rush.
“I’ve got a lot speed,” Sweat said. “I can either go with a lot of power or go inside. It’s really hard in space for offensive linemen to deal with that. All I’ve got to worry about is my get off.”
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Eagles players have six weeks off before training camp, and in that stretch Sweat plans to work on his technique, with an extra goal of adding weight to his frame. Sweat was listed at 250 pounds as a rookie but he’d like to get to 270 before the start of his second NFL training camp.
Sweat is putting in the work so he doesn’t have to watch from the sidelines this season. He wants to make a major impact.