Eagles Training Camp: Dominating Defensive Line Poised For Big Season

Jameson FlemingSenior Writer IAugust 1, 2008

The defensive line dominated the live periods of Friday morning's practice. The line kept constant pressure on the quarterback, sacking the man under center numerous times. That's nothing new for the Birds as they finished 2007 ninth in the league in sacks with 37. Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson says it starts with veteran Darren Howard who had two fumble recoveries Thursday.

"He's had a great camp. He's been in the best shape that I've evern seen. He looks quicker and more focused. He's important to our nickel package and play a lot of first and second down."

With Victor Abiamiri out with a wrist injury, Johnson says Howard will split time at right end with Brian Smith and Jerome McDougle. On the other side of the line, Johnson says teams will have to respect Trent Cole's abilities and line an extra player up against him.

"Trent's always going to be one of these guys that's going to be close to double digit sacks. I'm sure its going to help when you get pressure on the other side so they can't shift the line. Unless you really keep a tight end on the other side he's really going to give you fits."

Trent Cole will need some help in 2008 after recording almost a third of the team's sacks in 2007. That help could come from the defensive tackles. Coach Andy Reid says he expects a lot out of tackles Broderick Bunkley and Mike Patterson.

"They are a big part of the middle of your defense. How they play is important and I'm hard on these two for a reason. I expect their play to be top notch. You have to be strong through of your defense and it starts with them."

One player fighting for a chance to spell the starters is new comer Dan Klecko. The Eagles originally signed Klecko to play full-back, but have converted him back to his natural position of defensive tackler.

Coach Johnson says the five foot eleven inch Klecko lacks size, but not the intangibles.

"You have to make up for it with quickness, balance, determination, heart and that's what he has. So no, he's not a big guy, but he's got quickness which helps him."

Andy Reid and Jim Johnson have both reiterated they wanted great depth on the defensive line entering the season. With the line's performance from top to bottom in camp so far, they should get their wish.

Jameson Fleming is an intern at ESPN Radio 1230 and 1320 and will be at Training Camp every day filing radio reports and publishing his transcripts on Bleacher Report.