Remember the time when the Philadelphia Eagles defense was intimidating to their opponents? Remember the hard-nosed NFC East battles where games ended with players sucking up clogs of turf through their face masks and blood stained jerseys from heavy hits by Brian Dawkins, Sheldon Brown, or the pass rushing of Trent Cole? What, you say? Cole is still on the team wearing a midnight green jersey with the number 58? You wouldn’t know it from his poor play last season.
Cole came into the league and dominated as a 4-3 pass rusher. He terrorized his opponents, swimming against them and violently placed the targeted quarterback into the unforgiving earth with skillful ferocity. He is only second to Reggie White, having double digit sack seasons four consecutive years. He earned two of these in Philadelphia as fans looked on. At 6-foot-3, and 270 pounds, it made sense that the Eagles signed him to a long term deal. But last season the monster of a man only attained three sacks despite playing every game.
This year, as the Eagles training camp goes into its third day, there is a major question: Can Cole return to his former, terrible glory? The defense is changing to a 3-4 instead of a 4-3. Will Cole be able to adapt? No longer can he keep his hand to the ground before charging the quarterback. He would have to stand up, to be in open space, to close the gap, and get out quickly to the flats. This may be too much for the once fearsome linebacker to overcome.
His contract is for five years, and now the organization is implementing a system that may not need a big outside linebacker like Cole. If last season was an ‘aberration’ like he said it was, this new defensive set up could be devastating to Cole. Nothing would be more frustrating to a player than to come out of a losing season, with confidence for next, only to be replaced by a quicker, inexperienced player who fits better into the style.
Here is hoping that the sack-monster returns this season. Here is imagining that the defensive scheme formatted by Bill Davis is able to point Cole in a direction, like a weapon of nastiness, to bowl over the passer. He was given the nickname the “hunter,” and this is the year he needs to live up to that reputation.