It’s here, folks.
The Josh Sweat hype train has arrived.
Earlier this week, Football Outsiders named Sweat as one of the NFL’s top breakout candidates. The second-year pass rusher has continued to generate buzz at Eagles training camp.
In speaking with reporters after practice on Friday, Sweat said he’s up 20-something pounds from last year. Such a transformation is significant for a player the Eagles coaching staff didn’t show much trust in as a rookie. The 22-year-old has seemingly benefited from a full offseason in an NFL training program.
“I don’t feel any slower. I feel a lot faster, a lot more explosive, a lot stronger.”
Of course, these kind of stories run rampant at this time of year. “Player X gains/loses weight ahead of potential breakout season!” They must be taken with a grain of salt.
But something you don’t necessarily hear every year is a player going out of their way to hype up another teammate. And that’s exactly what starting right tackle Lane Johnson did with Sweat on Friday.
With a gaggle of reporters around Josh Sweat, Lane Johnson walked by and yelled, “Gonna be big f****** things from him this year.”— Jimmy Kempski (@JimmyKempski) July 26, 2019
While Johnson is known for having a sense of humor, he also has a reputation for being honest (some might say to a fault). I don’t think he’d be gassing up Sweat if he actually thought he wasn’t any good.
A certain former Eagles player also had positive things to say about Sweat. Check out what Chris Long had to say:
He wanted my 9 snaps a game if I came back I do love Josh Sweat. As much *upside* than any guy they got. Big fan if he stays healthy and plays w that energy this year. https://t.co/lap29BmG39— Chris Long (@JOEL9ONE) July 26, 2019
I love the kid.— Chris Long (@JOEL9ONE) July 26, 2019
On topic, all media outlets have to refer to and address my man Josh Sweat as “sweaty J” .... counting on you @LesBowen— Chris Long (@JOEL9ONE) July 26, 2019
Long’s retirement has put pressure on Sweat to step up in the Eagles’ defensive end rotation. Philadelphia has preferred to go four deep at that position over the past couple seasons. We know that Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, and Vinny Curry are projected for significant roles. But can Sweat get regular playing time as a fourth guy?
For what it’s worth, Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz sees growth in Sweat from Year 1 to Year 2.
It’s a huge difference between being a rookie, trying to learn, and trying to adapt. 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 cliché.
I think you just become so much more comfortable, and you can see somebody’s ability. He did a really nice job through all of our OTAs. But how he contributes this year will be dependent on how he practices in training camp, and what he looks like in pre-season games.
But we’re excited about him. 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.
He’s strong as can be. 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. We feel strongly about him stopping the run.
Schwartz’s note about Sweat looking good in OTAs lines up with Doug Pederson highlighting Sweat as a standout player from spring drills. Pederson specifically said that Sweat was “in a great place right now.”
Hype only goes so far. Sure, there’s plenty of reason to believe in the idea of Sweat. He’s a 22-year-old athletic freak.
Best combine by an edge in 2018 was #Eagles 4th round pick Josh Sweat, who put on a clinic in measurements that didn't involve lying on a bench. #RAS pic.twitter.com/GVtSD7FgqJ— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 3, 2019
But, like Schwartz said, Sweat still needs to go out and prove his worth to this team. It’s an important training camp and preseason for the Eagles’ 2018 fourth-round pick in that regard.
Sweat making a big leap in his development would go a long way in assuaging concerns about the Eagles’ defensive end rotation after losing Long and Michael Bennett. It’s not like Philly needs him to be a double-digit sack artist all of a sudden. It’s just about Sweat being able to handle a rotational role similar to the one Long previously played.
We’ll soon see if Sweat can live up to the hype.