It is said that games can be won or lost on the line on the line scrimmage. The defensive line is literally the first line of defense in helping the defense perform efficiently.
On the right side of the line for the Philadelphia Eagles, DE Trent Cole provides speed off the corner in the pass rush. Cole recorded nine sacks in 2008 after coming off of a Pro Bowl season in 2007.
Cole has become one of the premier pass rushers in the league despite being tagged with labels of being undersized, fragile, and not being capable of contributing regularly as a starter.
On the left side, DE Juqua Parker filled in admirably in the place of the injured Victor Abiamiri and proved to be a nice complement to Cole. He tallied five sacks in 2008 and gave opposing offenses another capable pass rusher to think about every snap.
Up the middle, the Eagles are solid at the tackle position. Tackles Broderick Bunkley and Mike Patterson are stout against the run.
Bunkley has vastly improved from his tumultuous rookie season in 2006. He has become one of the best up and coming talents at his position league wide. The 6'2" 306 lb tackle out of Florida State has averaged 80 tackles over the last two seasons, which has become the reason behind Philadelphia's improving run defense.
Patterson is one of the unsung heroes of this line. As is the case with Bunkley, Patterson has become a steady contributor to the success of this line. He is truly one of the more underrated players on the defensive line, if not the entire defense.
A defensive line is nothing without depth. Providing the depth are defensive ends Darren Howard, Chris Clemons, Victor Abiamiri, Bryan Smith and defensive tackles Trevor Laws, Dan Klecko, and Jervonte Jackson.
Darren Howard was originally signed in 2006 as a starter opposite Jevon Kearse. Initially, Howard showed that he was not worth the high price the Eagles paid to lure the free agent away from New Orleans.
However, in 2008, Howard recorded 10 sacks in a reserve role. In a pinch, Howard can provide some relief for Cole in order to keep him and the rest of the line fresh.
Chris Clemons was signed in 2008 with the intent of being a pass rush specialist. Clemons was absent for most of the season but showed signs of his potential late in the season by making an impact rushing the quarterback with six sacks.
Victor Abiamiri was set to be the starting right defensive end in 2008, but a wrist injury kept him out of action. Abiamiri has the potential to be a very good pass rusher in this league if given the chance. This could be his breakout year if he could stay healthy and productive.
Last year's third-round pick Bryan Smith did not see the field after being put on injured reserve. In the time spent on IR, Smith has improved himself physically from the slender defensive end he was at McNeese State. Smith could be one to watch in the preseason to see if he can be another weapon to be utilized in the pass rush.
2008 second round pick Trevor Laws did not see much time as well in 2008. A standout at Notre Dame, Laws has untapped potential and provides depth behind Patterson and Bunkley.
Dan Klecko will be back at his natural position, defensive tackle, after playing fullback for Philadelphia in 2008. If nothing else, Klecko provides needed depth and experience.
Unit Grade: A-
Despite being a bit undersized on the ends, this unit makes up for it with athleticism and being able to utilize the scheme that is put into action.
Patterson and Bunkley should only get better and provide a stout defense against the run in 2009.
Abiamiri is this year's training camp wild card on this line. He should have a shot to acquire more playing time given he can stay on the field long enough to show what he can do.