I have a lot to to say about Cole, who I’ve been very disappointed with this season.
The former fifth-round pick has just 1.5 sacks this season, and hasn’t been nearly as impactful on the field this year as he has been in the past.
What’s most disturbing to me about Cole is the attitude he has displayed. It’s understandable that the former Pro Bowler could be frustrated after going through such a disappointing season, but Cole has flat out refused to take responsibility for his poor play.
After the Detroit game, Cole was asked about his team’s failure to record a sack for the third straight week. He responded in a very defensive manner, claiming that the reporters must have been watching a different game. He implied that the Eagles got “great” pressure on Matt Stafford throughout the game, and that “if the sacks are meant to come, then they’ll come”.
What kind of a statement is that? Cole is supposed to be one of the veteran leaders on this defense, and by refusing to man up and take responsibility for his role in the defense not registering a single sack in three straight games, I think it says a lot about just how good (or in this case poor) of a leader he really is.
This is a guy who just a year or two ago complained about his rankings among the top-100 players in the NFL. Does he look anything like a top-100 player right now? Here’s some advice Trent, if you want to be considered one of the best in the game, you need to be a force every week that teams fear and are forced to gameplan around. What offensive coordinator is losing sleep over Trent Cole? He’s a nice player, but he isn’t a true elite pass rusher.
Compare the attitude of Trent Cole to that of Hugh Douglas 10 years ago. Back when the Eagles were just beginning to assert themselves as a playoff team under Andy Reid, Douglas was one of the key pieces of the defense and was also a strong presence in the locker room. Before a big game, Hugh was famous for his “Do or Die” quote, and he rose to the occasion in big moments. Who could forget Douglas knocking Chicago Bears quarterback Jim Miller out of the game during an interception return to help the Eagles upset the Bears in the 2001 playoffs?
And now the Eagles have “leaders” like Cole, who are concerned with irrelevant things like top-100 rankings and tries to defend his own mediocre play. Would any of the leaders from the early 2000s like Douglas, Jeremiah Trotter, Brian Dawkins, Troy Vincent, or Bobby Taylor have said something like “if the sacks are meant to come, then they’ll come”? I think not.
Babin has 2.5 sacks so far, but I think he’s been one of the better defensive ends on this team. He got off to a strong start, and was constantly around the quarterback in the first three games of the season. However, like the rest of his linemates, the former first-round pick has been completely ineffective in the last three games.
Unlike his partner, Trent Cole, Babin has said that the defensive line needs to “man up and start producing sacks”.
He’s finally healthy. He’s active for every game. He’s playing meaningful snaps. He’s not that good.
Graham has just one half of a sack, and isn’t doing much to shed his bust label. He’s gotten plenty of snaps, but hasn’t been able to do much with them. Sure he’s had a couple of decent hurries, but he’s still not showing anything to justify his first-round selection in 2010.
The draft classes from 2010 and 2011 are just killing this team. In the first three rounds from those years, the Eagles took Graham, Nate Allen, Daniel Teo-Neshiem, Danny Watkins, Jaiquan Jarrett, and Curtis Marsh. Two of those guys aren’t on the team anymore, one of them is at the bottom of the cornerback depth chart, and the two first-rounders are giving them nothing.
Jim Washburn said that one of his biggest regrets from 2011 was that he didn’t give Tapp more playing time. Well, Tapp has been given more snaps in 2012, and hasn’t done much with them.
Hunt played like a man possessed in the preseason, but it seems as though he may have used up all of his fire in the month of August. He’s been almost completely phased out of the defensive end rotation, and is playing just a couple of snaps every week.
The second round pick has been inactive for every game this year. With the pass rush in desperate need of a boost, is it time to shake things up by activating the rookie and inserting him into the rotation? I think so.
Cullen Jenkins/Derek Landri
I’ll write about these two players together since I have pretty much the same thing to say about both of them.
Jenkins and Landri have been completely invisible this year.
What happened to these two? Jenkins was a great interior pass rusher and Landri was in the opposing backfield every week a year ago. In 2012, we haven’t heard a peep from either player. The Eagles expected their defensive line to be dominant, and the play of these two tackles was a big key to that success. Hopefully they’ll be able to turn things around in the second half.
The first-round pick may be the lone bright spot on the defensive line this year. Cox has been a disruptive force against both the run and pass, and has been taking snaps away from the ineffective Derek Landri.
The early returns on Cox look good, and hopefully he’ll continue to develop into force in the middle of the line as the year goes on.
Thornton has been OK. Considering he’s the fourth defensive tackle in the rotation, you can’t really hold him to higher expectations. He’s made a couple of nice plays, and drawn holding penalties on several occasions.
Ryans has been exactly the type of player that he was advertised to be when he came over in the off-season trade with the Houston Texans.
The two-time Pro Bowler has brought a great deal of stability to the defense, and playmaking ability at the middle linebacker position. Ryans is constantly around the football, and leads the team in tackles almost every week. He had a huge impact in the victory over the Baltimore Ravens, where he made several game-changing plays including a sack and an interception.
The second-round pick has been solid. I think he benefits greatly from having a successful linebacker like Ryans around to help him get into the right positions to make plays.
For years, the Eagles were regularly burned by opposing tight ends, but this season opposing tight ends have almost been a non-factor. Kendricks has a lot to do with that.
I’d like to see Kendricks get some more opportunities to make some big plays, meaning I’d like to see new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles turn him loose on blitzes more often.
Steady, but unspectacular. We know what Jordan is at this point in his career. He’s the weak link among the three starting linebackers, but now that the team has a couple of quality starters in Ryans and Kendricks, they can get away with starting a guy like Jordan.
Jordan’s best contributions come as a special teamer.
He had an opportunity to take the weakside job away from Jordan, but didn’t do enough to impress the coaches in his two starts.
Has only been on the field with the defense for a couple of plays, but was in on a few tackles against the Steelers.
Nnamdi is a little hard to judge. When people analyze his play, they hold him to the incredibly high standards that he set while he was dominating opposing receivers as a member of the Oakland Raiders. Since he’s come to Philadelphia, he just hasn’t been that shutdown guy. He’s now on the wrong side of 30, and it’s clear that he’s lost a step. He can’t go out and shut down one side of the field anymore.
That being said, Asomugha is far from a liability. He’s still a quality starting cornerback in this league. He’s going to get beat from time to time, but when the matchup is right he can still cover effectively. He’s best used against taller, slower, physical receivers. He’s coming off his best game as an Eagle, in which he did a great job of limiting the damage done by Calvin Johnson.
DRC has had a fantastic year. He’s got three interceptions, and the plays that he’s made have helped the Eagles win a couple of games. He made two interceptions to stop a pair of Cleveland Browns drives, and made a big interception in the endzone against the Giants that stopped a scoring drive.
He had opportunities for two more against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and had he made those plays the Eagles might be a 4-2 team right now. But I really can’t complain about the plays that he didn’t make. I love the fact that the former Arizona Cardinal is constantly in position to make these game-changing plays. He’s got to get some Pro Bowl consideration right now.
We’ve seen Boykin play very well, but we’ve also seen him go through some growing pains. The Eagles knew what they were getting themselves into when they decided to go with him as their nickel corner instead of Joselio Hanson.
He’s also been the kick returner, but he’s made little impact.
Hughes has had some nice moments as the fourth cornerback. Against the Giants, Hughes came in and did a decent job filling in for Nnamdi Asomugha, who had to leave the came temporarily with an eye injury.
The 2011 third-round pick still can’t get on to the field.
Nate Allen/Kurt Coleman
I’ve got similar things to say about both of them.
Both Allen and Coleman have improved in 2012. A year ago, the safety position was a revolving door. Now, both starters have brought some stability to the defense.
Allen has done a good job in coverage, and Coleman has brought some physicality to the defense. The young safeties seem to have learned from the growing pains of their first two years, and have matured into a couple of decent players. Neither of them may ever be Pro Bowl caliber, but I don’t think that they’re the liabilities that they were a year ago.
He’s still working his way back from his knee injury, but he’s getting stronger every week. The kickoff coverage units need him at his best.
This is a defense that has a lot of talent, and has really impressed in some areas. However, it’s also a group that is still underachieving in certain aspects, and is responsible for a pair of blown fourth quarter leads.
The failures of the defensive line may be the biggest surprise/disappointment of the 2012 season. Before the year began, on paper the Eagles had a line that was built to excel at rushing the opposing quarterback, and its inconceivable to think that they could go almost an entire month without a sack.
The back seven have been the strength of this unit, and they might look even better if the defensive lineman start showing up every week.
I’m excited to see how this group will improve with Todd Bowles taking over as defensive coordinator. As I’ve mentioned previously, I think that he’s got a much better chance to get the most out of these players than Juan Castillo ever did. If this defense has a competent defensive coordinator calling the shots, I think it has the potential to be one of the better units in the league.
Denny Basens is the editor of GCobb.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter.