Adventures at Summer Camp: Lehigh Day 2

Because someone has to read all the news coming out of the Eagles training camp.

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When double-negatives attack. Bobby April told the press, in as roundabout a way as he could manage, that DeSean Jackson won’t be the primary punt returner anymore, now that he has his big contract:

"I don’t think that we’re not going to use him," April said. "I just don’t know if he’s going to be the primary guy. … He’ll continue to work at the positiion. He just won’t get as much work as he normally does."

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Can’t lower the bar enough. April also said that while he was looking to bring in competition for Chas Henry, the former Florida punter did well for a rookie. That is simply not true. Among his fellow rookies, Henry had the second-lowest net average and tied for the lowest ratio of punts inside the 20 yard line to touchbacks, a rough measure of placement and touch. Needless to say, those stats look even worse compared to veterans.

UPDATE: Eagles signed former Cowboy Mat McBriar.

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My kingdom for a Washburn post-game press conference. Jim Washburn is so candid. He talked to the press yesterday, and the quotes were flying. On Mike Patterson coming back from brain surgery:

"Mike Patterson might be one of the best people I’ve ever had," said Washburn. "He doesn’t have to come to these rookie meetings at night and in the afternoon, he doesn’t have to be there, but guess what? He’s there. I said, ‘Mike, you don’t have to be here,’ and he said, ‘I like to be here.’ He likes football. He’s a good one. God dang, we miss him now."

On Antonio Dixon:

"I was so disappointed," said Washburn. "I couldn’t tell if he had any talent… I couldn’t tell if the guy was a good player or not. I couldn’t tell if he was a good athlete. He weighed 365 or something like that. His back was killing him. He was out of shape. I couldn’t even tell if he was a player. This spring, he worked his butt off. He’s down, I don’t know how much he weighs, he’s maybe 330 from 360 or whatever it was. He’s in so much better shape and I went, ‘Wow, this guy’s got some quickness.’ He likes to play and he’s tough, but he’s got ability."

On Trent Cole:

“He told me when I first got here, ‘I ain’t rotating,’” Washburn said Tuesday at Eagles training camp. “Said it right up there in that meeting room. I said, ‘Yes, you are … or your ass ain’t going to play.’ He’s a great kid, Trent.”

On Brandon Graham:

"He changed some of the habits in his life, I think," Washburn said. "He got serious. … I don’t know, [he’s] a mild-mannered guy. He was a good player in college, he was. I watched every game he played in college for a year or two. He was a good player. Should be a good player here. Lost his weight. Got too heavy.” Graham, of course, is coming back from knee surgery after losing most of 2011.

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Tearjerker. If you’re not rooting for lifelong Eagles fan Vinny Curry before, you will Be after you read Jeff McLane’s article about him. Plus, bonus Washburn quotes!

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Mini-Asante? Multiple reports talked about UDFA Cliff Harris picking off a few passes during yesterday’s practices, putting him out to an early lead in the Training Camp Darling category. But let’s not go crazy here. There are no good wide receivers at camp, and some of the picks just demonstrate how bad Trent Edwards is.

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On the other hand, I’m starting to let the continued positive reports on Mychal Kendricks get to me. He seems much more prepared than Casey Matthews was, at any rate.

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Poorly Written Articles Edition. Bill Barnwell gives us what he pretends to be a statistical analysis of the top running backs in the game, but somehow concludes that Ray Rice is better than LeSean McCoy without demonstrating any number that backs that up.

Even less insightful was the book excerpt in Fast Company about how Jeff Lurie turned around the Eagles. What a waste of time.

Post-Draft Position Breakdown: Defensive Tackle

Mike Patterson

What the Eagles did: Around the end of January, I started to get the feeling that, other than linebacker, defensive line made the most sense for the Eagles in the first round. Then, as Derek Landri lingered in free agency longer than we expected and the team held a private workout with Fletcher Cox (in tandem with the Dontari Poe parade), the hints were getting stronger and stronger.

Still, I’m not sure any Eagles fan, even the most optimistic Cox supporter, necessarily expected the Eagles to snag a player who was instantly hailed as a perfect fit in Jim Washburn’s system. There aren’t many defensive tackles with Cox’s combination of size, speed, and production. With any luck Washburn can make him into a dominating force like Albert Haynesworth was. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

As to the rest of the group, let me once again put up the pass rushing stats from last year:

2011 Eagles Defensive Tackles

Unsurprisingly, Trevor Laws was let go. Although he had his moments last year, overall the former second round pick was a major disappointment. I suppose he has the excuse of having played for three different defensive coordinators and three other defensive line coaches during his four year tenure, if you want to throw him that bone.

Mike Patterson and Cullen Jenkins will be the starters. Both are solid veteran players, even if no one is likely to gameplan specifically for them. Jenkins’s 17 sacks over the least three seasons are near the top for all defensive tackles and while Patterson has generally been more of a run stuffer, you see above that Washburn made him the 17th most effective pass rusher in the league from that spot last year. Again, Cox’s ceiling is much higher, but until he’s ready these two are fine in the middle.

Just like with the defensive ends, the other backup spots at tackle are up in the air. Antonio Dixon probably has the inside track to the nose tackle job. He missed nearly all of last year, but signed a restricted free agent tender at the second round level. Derek Landri will certainly continue to make the most of his talents. He was tremendously productive in 2011, but got little interest in free agency. Then there’s Cedric Thornton, who spent most of last season on the team’s practice squad.

What I would have done: Howie Roseman on a roll. This position looks great.

Way-too-early prediction: Is it too optimistic to predict that Cox will start at least six games? Some combination of injury and ridiculous physical potential seem likely to make that happen. If not, he should at least make an immediate contribution in the rotation. As to the fourth spot, it must be Dixon’s to lose, given his youth and talent. Will be interesting to see if he can (a) show the spark he had in 2010, (b) adjust to Washburn’s scheme, and (c) be consistent — but I bet he’ll get every opportunity to do so. Landri’s probably fighting for the Eagles to keep five tackles as much as any specific other player.

Photo from Getty.

What Derek Landri Tells Us About DT Draft Plans

There’s no denying that Derek Landri was a great surprise find for the Eagles last season. While he looked good in training camp, the team couldn’t find a roster spot for him, but after Antonio Dixon was lost for the year, they got a pass rushing boost picking up Landri after week four.

Here’s a chart I posted before, showing Landri as the top pass rusher per snap among Eagles defensive tackles last year:

2011 Eagles Defensive Tackles

Tommy Lawlor spent some time yesterday talking about his favorite player of all time. He speculated as to why Landri hasn’t re-signed with the Eagles yet:

I imagine the Eagles are offering him a cheap deal and also aren’t guaranteeing any playing time. [Mike Patterson, Cullen Jenkins, and Dixon] are locks to play. The rookie and Ced Thornton should be battling for snaps. And there sits Derek Landri on the outside.

I think Tommy’s observation is astute, and it gives us a window into the Eagles plans regarding the defensive tackle position. Barring injury, Jenkins and Patterson will be the starters, and Dixon’s back-up spot is secure since he signed his second round tender.

The Eagles only kept four defensive tackles last season, and they are likely to do the same in 2012. Knowing that, Landri should be happy to sign on as the fourth guy, right? And the Eagles should be happy to have him, right?

Well, unless the Eagles are thinking about drafting another defensive tackle early in the draft. I’m sure Howie Roseman would like to have Landri back, but he won’t be handing out any kind of guarantee if Landri has no chance (outside of injuries) to make the roster. On the flipside, Landri won’t be eager to re-sign if he knows what’s going on.

At the end of the day, Landri may decide he doesn’t have any better options than to fight an uphill battle in Philly. But the length of time he’s taken to make his decision suggests that neither side is eager to have him back. And that, in turn, points to the imminent arrival of another, more important defensive tackle prospect.

Photo from Getty.

Looking at 2013 and the Eagles Draft Options

Andy Reid Philadelphia Eagles

One if the most common mistakes that fans make is assuming that the Eagles will draft a player because of immediate need. That rarely happens. Most of the time, the team papers over current roster flaws with free agent signings and trades, acquiring DeMeco Ryans being a prime example.

You should never expect even a first round pick to contribute much in their rookie year. If you end up with a quick starter, great. But relying on guys like Danny Watkins right away will disappoint you early and often.

The question of what position is ripe to be drafted early has more to do, in my opinion, with looking a year or two down the road. Where are the aging veterans? Where are the likely holes in the team a year from now? Let’s take a look at the 2013 roster as it looks right now:

QB: Michael Vick, Mike Kafka
RB: Dion Lewis, Stanley Havili
WR: DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper
TE: Brent Celek, Clay Harbor
OT: Jason Peters, Todd Herremans
OG/C: Danny Watkins, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, J. Vandervelde, M. Gibson
DE: Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Brandon Graham, Philip Hunt
DT: Mike Patterson, Cullen Jenkins
LB: DeMeco Ryans, Casey Matthews, Jamar Chaney, Keenan Clayton, Brian Rolle
CB: Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel, Curtis Marsh
S: Nate Allen, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Kurt Coleman

With the notable exception of LeSean McCoy, every Eagles offensive starter and most of the backups are signed through the next two seasons. That’s great for the team, since the offensive unit has been much more consistently good than the defense over the last few years. There’s no reason to sit on that and not draft anyone, perhaps more OL and WR depth, but there’s no major need at any of these positions.

Defense is a different story entirely; there you are more likely to need guys than not. Defensive end is probably in the best spot going forward, with two Pro Bowl starters and two players with potential already lined up. The rest is a real crap shoot.

There are only two defensive tackles signed through 2013 (although Tommy’s presumably camped out on Derek Landri’s lawn right now). Both Jenkins and Patterson are starters, but they are getting up in age, too. At linebacker there are five players but it’s tough to trust any of them, with the possible exception of Ryans. Cornerback really only has Asomugha and Marsh, with Samuel packing his bags. And safety brings us three youngsters, none of whom have proven they can be above average starters.

With all that said, I think it would be justifiable to draft any defensive position, outside of DE, in the first round. There are a couple more factors to keep your eye on as we get closer to the draft. First, will Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie get a contract extension? I already discussed this at length, but some movement there could allow the Eagles to delay drafting another corner in the first round. Second, what do the Eagles do at outside linebacker? If they obtain another starter there, they could pass on Luke Kuechly and take a flier on a second or third round LB instead.

If the Eagles take action on both of those counts, odds are that the team will be picking among the deep class of defensive tackles with pick #15.

Photo from Getty.

Despite Jenkins' Return, DT is a Top Draft Priority

Les Bowen:

Even though Jenkins is 31 and might not be a long-term starter, his return, along with the return from injury of Antonio Dixon, might mean the Eagles don’t target a defensive tackle with the 15th overall selection in the April entry draft. If they re-sign pending free agent Derek Landri, that will become even less likely.

Disagree. As I briefly mentioned a few weeks ago, the defensive line is in need of young talent. This Cullen Jenkins contract restructuring is nice, but he’s not a long term solution at tackle. Nor is Mike Patterson, Derek Landri, or Trevor Laws. Plus, as Sheil Kapadia noted today, there’s already a robust rotation that would easily integrate a new addition.

All in all, if the Eagles address middle linebacker in free agency and Luke Kuechly remains the only consensus first round 4-3 linebacker, defensive tackle immediately jumps to the front of the line in terms of most likely early pick.

Is the Wide Nine to Blame for Poor Run Defense?

Since I’m worried that these may be some of the Eagles final days with Jim Washburn as defensive line coach, now is as good a time as any to analyze his impact on the defensive line. A few days ago I showed how Washburn formed an elite pass rush.

Today, let’s look at the run defense.

During the season the Wide Nine technique was often scapegoated for poor run defense. While no one doubted that the Eagles linebackers were awful, many also alleged that Washburn’s scheming put too much pressure on those overmatched LBs.

To that end, it’s worth examining the defensive line to see how much it contributed to the problem, if at all.

Football Outsiders numbers suggest that, if anything, the line was the only thing working correctly against the run. While they place the Eagles squarely in the middle of the league on adjusted line yards, the defensive line was third-best in the NFL at both power success (denying short yardage runs) and stuffed percentage (runs stopped behind the line of scrimmage). The bigger problems appeared in second level and open field yards, which are generally the responsibility of the linebackers and safeties.

But let’s look more specifically, player by player. Pro Football Focus has the numbers there:

Eagles Defensive Ends Run Defense

At defensive end, I don’t see much cause for blaming Washburn. Both Trent Cole and Darryl Tapp improved on their tackle and stop percentages in 2011. Juqua Parker dropped off, but there’s little reason to think that was because of the Wide Nine.

Jason Babin does come out looking pretty bad here. Among defensive ends with at least 25 percent of their team’s run snaps, Babin ranked near the bottom — 51st — in stop rate. Unlike Cole, Babin isn’t a complete player. But if he can continue to put up big sack numbers, it won’t really matter.

Eagles Defensive Tackle Run Defense

The two main holdovers from 2010, Mike Patterson and Trevor Laws, both improved against the run last year. Broderick Bunkley helped Denver reach the second round of the playoffs, but the additions of Derek Landri and Cullen Jenkins more than made up for that loss.

Overall, I just don’t see any merit to the arguments that blame poor run defense in Jim Washburn and the front four. All signs point to the putrid tacklers playing behind them, not the line itself.

An Eagles Pass Rush Worth Keeping

Trent Cole Philadelphia Eagles

With the bottle still spinning in the Eagles presumed search for a new defensive coordinator, the fate of defensive line coach Jim Washburn is up in the air. Will Steve Spagnuolo, the free agent front runner, see working with Washburn, or are the tactical and personality differences too great to overcome?

All I know is, it would be an absolute shame if Spagnuolo or any other new coordinator failed to incorporate Washburn into his scheme. The numbers bear out what an amazing job Washburn did with the Eagles defensive line, turning it into the best pass rushing front four in the whole NFL.

Pro Football Focus has a great statistic on this, Pass Rushing Productivity (PRP). The stat measures the percentage of pass rushes in which players record a sack, hit, or hurry (weighted 75 percent for the latter two).

Here’s what PRP had for the Eagles defensive ends in 2010, with Jason Babin’s year in Tennessee included for reference. “25% Rank” is the player’s standing next to all other pass rushers with at least 25 percent of their team’s defensive snaps.

2010 Eagles Defensive Ends

As you can see, the Eagles defensive line was very effective under Sean McDermott. Darryl Tapp was the worst regular contributor, and he ranked 29th among all defensive ends. Trent Cole led the league in hurries and Brandon Graham showed promise before his knee injury.

But what about 2011:

2011 Eagles Defensive Ends

There were a number of changes. For starters, even without Graham, substitutions were up. Cole was in on over 100 fewer passing plays. Also, the zone coverage attempts by defensive ends that marked 5-10 percent of plays in 2010 were largely eliminated.

The result of these changes and the new Wide Nine technique was an across the board jump in pressure from the ends. Cole moved up to number one in the NFL, Babin improved on his Titans production, and Darryl Tapp — still the laggard — brought up the rear at 10th best in the league. Moreover, even the back ups scored highly in limited snaps.

That is a remarkable improvement. To be complete, let’s also check the defensive tackles’ pass rushing:

2010 Eagles Defensive Tackles

2011 Eagles Defensive Tackles

Broderick Bunkley had the highest PRP among Eagles defensive tackles in 2010. In 2011, the Eagles had three (almost four) who scored higher than Bunkley. That says pretty much everything that needs to be said there.

All the numbers above are interesting, and you can pull out other nuggets in the comments (such as Hunt’s efficiency or Laws’s ineffectiveness), but overall this tells a clear story about the positive impact Jim Washburn has had on this defensive line.

I’m optimistic that a good coordinator can adapt to Washburn’s strengths, but I fear that whoever the Eagles bring in will be too stubborn to do so. Cross your fingers.

Photo from Getty.

This Indecision's Bugging Me

Philly.com has the results up from their annual “Stay or Go” online voting feature, and there are some interesting findings. The highlights:

  • DeSean Jackson lost a lot of support since last year’s version, but not nearly as much as fellow starter Asante Samuel. Jackson dropped from 90 to 73 percent approval, while Samuel tanked from 87 to only 39 percent. Asante was the only year-over-year starter to go from positive to negative fan support.

  • Other major losers included Jamaal Jackson, Brandon Graham, Juqua Parker, Trevor Laws, Moise Fokou, and Nate Allen.

  • Meanwhile, Joselio Hanson, Jason Peters, Clay Harbor, and Mike Patterson all jumped at least 20 percent.

  • Howie Roseman, once synonymous with Joe Banner, is officially the most hated man in the NovaCare offices. Just under 20 percent of responders want him to stay in Philly.

Short Term Players, Long Term Problems

Jeremiah Trotter Philadelphia Eagles

Former Eagles tight end Chad Lewis, to Derek Sarley in 2009:

It’s a fine line and it’s very hard to define.  You have to push to have strong team chemistry at the same time you push to win.  Sometimes those are competing forces.  Sometimes it requires Trotter in the locker room getting in someone’s face.  Or it requires Donovan sharing a joke to keep people laughing and cut through and dissolve some of the pressure that every one of us feels is on us to perform. 

Andy fostered that team chemistry.  But it’s dynamic.  It’s alive and moving.  Once you get it, it doesn’t mean it will stay forever.  You have to care enough to keep it or get it back.

What does it take to be an effective locker room leader? Through most of the Andy Reid years, the Eagles have had no shortage of leaders. But what are the necessary traits? I’ve narrowed it down to five requirements, complete with one players who embodies the trait and one who doesn’t.

  1. Talented — If you’re not a starter, no one is going to take you seriously. Jon Runyan vs. Winston Justice.
  2. Experienced — Veterans command proper respect. Brian Westbook vs. LeSean McCoy.
  3. Vocal — Silence doesn’t get you anywhere. Jeremiah Trotter vs. Trent Cole.
  4. Mature — Responsible, accountable players only. Quintin Mikell vs. Asante Samuel.
  5. Tenured — On at least your second contract with the team. Brian Dawkins vs. Nnamdi Asomugha.

If you look up and down the Eagles roster, you’ll find players that fit into the first four categories. There are talented veterans who are outspoken role models for the youngsters, but there’s a real shortage of players who’ve been with the organization for the long haul.

Why is this important? A good team has players that set an example for others to follow. Sometimes they get in your face, sometimes they crack jokes, but they hold everyone accountable and united.

These players aren’t around anymore, though. Look at the following graph, which shows the Eagles starters by the number of years they’ve been with the team. This isn’t NFL experience, but rather experience with this organization in particular.

Click for bigger version:

Eagles Starters Experience

The 2011 team has the most first-year starters of any team after 1999. It’s tied with 1999 for the most first and second year starters. It has more starters with three or fewer years with the organization than any other in Andy Reid’s time as coach, and is tied with 2000 for the most four years or fewer. The 2011 Eagles are also only the second team to have not a single standard-bearer who has been with the team for more than seven years.

In real terms, that means the team has exactly four starters — Brent Celek, Todd Herremans, Trent Cole, and Mike Patterson — who have been with the Eagles for longer than four years. DeSean Jackson and Asante Samuel are de facto veteran role models at four years a piece. Not a single starter has played in a Super Bowl as an Eagle.

In retrospect, it’s not a coincidence that this team is falling apart any more than it’s surprising that the 2008 team stuck together and engineered a deep playoff run. That squad had a wealth of veterans on their second contracts, players who knew how to band together and make the sum greater than the individual parts. Those were players who conveyed what it meant to be an Eagle, and the team had reinforced that notion by keeping them around.

Now almost all of those players are gone and no one has been groomed to replace them. The front office drafted “high character” guys who haven’t seen the field. They brought in veteran free agents to fill a void, but as outsiders they can’t set the locker room attitude.

But the biggest problem is that this leadership vacuum isn’t going away any time soon. The free agent pickups are getting older. Most of the draft picks from 2006-2010 washed out, and those that didn’t (e.g. DeSean Jackson) largely haven’t been extended.

What’s the core of this team? Who are the locker room role models going forward? If those questions can’t be answered, the team might be closer to “blow it up” than “one more year.”

Photo from Getty.

Measuring the Jim Washburn Effect

Trent Cole Mike Patterson Cullen Jenkins Sack

Yesterday, I detailed how Jim Washburn’s coaching resurrected Jason Babin’s career and turned him into a sack machine. But what about other players? How is Washburn and the wide nine formation treating veteran Eagles defensive linemen?

That’s the question I set out to answer, using Pro Football Focus’s great stats. Below is a table calculated based on snap counts and pressure data compiled in 2010 and 2011 for Eagles linemen who have played in both Washburn’s system and Sean McDermott’s.

Jim Washburn Philadelphia Eagles DLThe first column shows change (Δ) in frequency of pass rushes per snap the player is in the game. There are some interesting trends there alone.

Mike Patterson used to be a largely first and second down defensive tackle, but he’s now getting the chance to rush the passer more. The opposite appears to be true for Trevor Laws. Meanwhile, Washburn has smartly eliminated Trent Cole’s occasional coverage responsibilities in 2010.

So, once these players are going for the quarterback, how are they doing? There are clearly some winners and some losers.

Patterson, Cole, and Darryl Tapp are all way up in total pressure per rush (sacks, hits, pressures). Antonio Dixon was too, before his season-ending injury. Juqua Parker seemed like he’d be a good fit for Washburn’s scheme, especially because Babin’s addition would keep him fresh. But that hasn’t happened at all. As for Laws, the numbers don’t match up with my anecdotal memory of his solid performance.

Overall, it’s clear that Washburn and the addition of successful free agents is having a big, positive effect on the Eagles pass rushers. You probably already knew that, but now at least you have the stats to back it up.

Photo from Getty.

2011 Eagles Offseason Guide: Defensive Line

Trent Cole Eagles Defensive Ends 2011

This is the sixth in a series of posts breaking down the Eagles position by position in advance of the upcoming draft and (hopefully) free agency. We’ve already looked at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, and offensive line. Today we’ll examine the defensive line.

2010 Recap: At defensive end, last season was all about the injuries. Only Trent Cole had another normal, star season at defensive end — where he posted 10 sacks and 55 hurries. Former second round pick Victor Abiamiri missed the entire season after undergoing microfracture surgery. The Eagles fifth round selection in 2010, Ricky Sapp, was also lost for the year after arthroscopic knee surgery. Brandon Graham, the defensive end that the Eagles traded up in the draft to get, showed some early promise. He started six games, compiled three sacks, and on a per pass rush basis, was actually one of the most effective defensive linemen in the NFC East. However, Graham was also bit by the injury bug, succumbing to a torn ACL in Week 14.

Veteran Juqua Parker shared playing time with Graham for most of the season and although he’s never been a star, Parker began to show some liability, especially against mobile quarterbacks like Minnesota’s Joe Webb. Darryl Tapp, who the Eagles traded for in the offseason, contributed four sacks as a rotational player. Another rookie, Daniel Te’o-Nesheim did little to justify his third round selection. Finally there were the host of other names that came in and out during the year: Antwan Barnes, Derrick Burgess, and Bobby McCray.

At defensive tackle, the longtime starters Mike Patterson and Broderick Bunkley were finally pushed. Patterson started the whole year, with his typically solid run defense and lackluster pass rush. But Bunkley, after missing two games with an elbow injury, lost his starting spot to Antonio Dixon, a player the Eagles claimed on waivers after he went undrafted in 2009. Dixon, 6’3” 325 lbs, is the biggest Eagles tackle and perhaps the most explosive off the ball. Trevor Laws, who looked like a bust a year ago, resurrected his career somewhat as a solid inside pass rusher. Finally, 2010 7th round selection Jeff Owens spent most of the year on the practice squad only to be called up in Week 16 and promptly rupture his left patellar tendon.

Who’s Leaving: McCray’s a free agent. DT Jeremy Clark, another late season pick up, will compete but is a long shot. Through an odd loophole of the Physically Unable to Perform list, Abiamiri’s 2011 free agency was delayed a year — meaning he’ll get one more chance to show what he’s got.

2011 Depth Chart: Cole and Parker are probably the starters at defensive end, assuming it takes Graham more than six months to recover from ACL surgery. Tapp, Te’o-Nesheim, Sapp, Abiamiri, and Canadian Football League star Philip Hunt (16 sacks in 2010) will compete for the backup spots, and one or more will probably end up on the outside looking in. Seems like there should be open competition at tackle, where the scheme set up by new defensive line coach Jim Washburn will have a big impact on who starts, and who potentially become trade bait. Not even sure I can handicap that race right now.

Potential Additions: Some fans have talked about bringing back DE Jason Babin, who had 12.5 sacks last year working with Washburn. I doubt the Eagles will be the highest bidder for his services. I also don’t expect the Eagles to trade for Washington malcontent Albert Haynesworth, despite his immense talent. If the team does want to add veteran talent, Vikings end Ray Edwards would be a potential target.

The defensive line is considered a strong area of this year’s draft. Players like Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan could get a long look in the first round.

Future Outlook: The future depends a great deal on Washburn’s new philosophy and who fits into his system. But certainly Graham’s injury deals a big set back to the Eagles plans at defensive line. The team will need other young, talented defensive ends to ensure an acceptable transfer into the post-Cole era.

Originally published at NBC Philadelphia. Photo from Getty.

Eagles Pass Rush: Even Better Than Last Year?

The chart on the right (stats courtesy of Pro Football Focus) helps us see who’s in to put pressure on the quarterback — and who’s not. Let’s start from the bottom then work our way up.

Patterson and Bunkley have become situational players in the 2010 defense. The Eagles have long rotated the two big-bodied starters out on passing downs, but they’re doing that more often than ever. Last year the two rushed the passer about 50 percent of the time that they were in. By taking them out more often, McDermott has given more rushing opportunities to players who actually cause pressure.

Interesting to see Brandon Graham on the Trent Cole diet of close to equal pass and run play percentages. Basically what that means is that the two of them play on almost every snap — regardless of type. They are the Birds’ most complete linemen…

Sorting Out Starters, Contributors on the Eagles Defense

Defense is an area where the Eagles, both under the late Jim Johnson and second-year defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, like to rotate players. Often the depth on the defensive line is as important as the starters, given how many substitutions the Eagles make in any given game.

Yet there are essentially four types of defensive players — full-time starters, contributors who play most of the time, situational players and backups. The fabulous data compiled by Pro Football Focus can give us a better read on those divisions as they shake out in the early part of the season.

Let’s dive into the numbers…