Defensive end is a position in which Eagles fans have become accustomed to seeing nothing but greatness. From Reggie White and Clyde Simmons, to William Fuller, Hugh Douglas, Jevon Kearse and now Trent Cole; are all in a long line of dominating defensive ends.
The Leader in the Trenches: Trent Cole
Trent Cole has been excellent and with four seasons under his belt, he is planning to bring it harder than ever in 2009.
The 26 year old 6'3" 270-pound Cincinnati Bearcat was drafted in the fifth round of the 2005 draft. As a rookie, Cole accounted for 46 tackles, five sacks and forced one fumble.
In 2006, Cole accounted for 62 tackles, eight sacks, forced four fumbles, recovered one, and returned an interception for a touchdown.
In Cole's 2007 pro bowl campaign, he accounted for 70 tackles, 12.5 sacks, force four fumbles and recovered one.
In 2008, Cole accounted for 77 tackles, nine sacks and two forced fumbles as he battled double teams all season.
In 2009, Cole enters his fifth season in prime condition and poised to exploit the maturation of fellow defensive linemen and linebackers who will require more attention themselves and help draw off double teams.
When asked what he was working on to improve his game for 2009, Cole said, "add a little more size...coming off the ball a little bit faster...using my hands a lot more."
Cole is always working to improve his game and he has commented that the all the way down the line, the players have improved and they are loaded with prototypical talent.
That is the kind of speech that the leader of this defensive line needs to carry on and off the field.
Comparing Cole to some of the recent greats at defensive end for the Eagles, William Fuller really stands out as a similar player. They are of similar build and they both dominated as well rounded run stopping and pass rushing defensive ends.
There is nothing fancy about Trent Cole. He's kind of an overachiever. He's quick and strong, but not exceptional in those areas.
He's not famous for his swim move, bull rush or a forearm club—nothing like that. He just plays hard-nosed-down-hill fundamental football.
Cole does have elite instincts and he moreover plays with a heart felt passion that Eagles fans and players are inspired by.
I believe Trent Cole will have a Pro Bowl worthy season again in 2009.
The returning starters at defensive tackle were the Eagles 2005 and 2006 first round draft picks. Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley are both 25 years old and capable of playing at a Pro Bowl level. They have excelled at stopping the run and are a handful of sacks a piece away from being viable Pro Bowl candidates.
These guys are 300-plus pound monsters that log jam the middle of the line. Patterson also showed that he had some wheels in 1996 returning a fumble 98 yards for a touchdown against the 49ers (correction served by James Yetter).
Everyone likes to see a big man sprint.
Look for Patterson and Bunkley to continue to mature this season and post career bests in most of their statistical measures.
2008 first round draft pick Trevor Laws, and the recently re-converted tackle Dan Klecko have played well with limited opportunity. They haven't been needed, but if called upon, they are capable stand-ins with upside.
Unfortunately Amon Gordon is lost for the season with a ruptured achilles.
One of the interesting traditions of the Jimmy Johnson defense, that either he or interim coordinator Sean McDermott will likely carry forward into 2009, is the use of a quicker defensive end as a tackle in passing situations to generate more pressure.
In 2008, the reserve defensive linemen accounted for 18 sacks. Darren Howard and Chris Clemons recorded 14 of them as Howard often came in at tackle and Clemons on the end, spelling Bunkley and Parker.
Jaqua Parker played the left end position well in 2008, but the maturation of the Eagles 2007 second round draft pick, Victor Abiamiri, and sack specialists Darren Howard and Chris Clemons will put up a stiff competition for that position in training camp.
The training camp battle for left end should make for an outstanding talent to emerge and be awarded with the starting role. All of the candidates for left defensive end are very good football players with something to prove.
Bryan Smith is another interesting defensive end on the Eagles roster that will survive the roster cuts. He will more than likely transition to a strong side linebacker if he doesn't gain mass, but he has the instincts and the quickness to play well at the NFL level.
The Eagles made no real additions to the defensive line in the off season. Considering all of the front office activity, that is a strong testimony to their confidence in the players they have.