A Defensive End Preview

Sheil Kapadia:

Jenkins has been getting some reps at defensive end with Jason Babin out. We didn’t see him outside much last year, although Jenkins played defensive end while in a 3-4 with the Packers.

“I just gotta get back used to it,” he said. “My hand work is a little off, especially on the left side. When I did play D-End in the past, I was used to being on the right side, so when I’m on the left side, I gotta get used to the hands, vertical steps and all that stuff.”

I’m a fan of whatever looks Jim Washburn wants to throw at offenses, but with Trent Cole also out with swelling in his shoulder, now seems like the perfect time to get lots of looks at the quartet of Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Darryl Tapp, and Philip Hunt. You’re not going to be able to keep all four of those guys.

Seeing Cole and Babin both dealing with injuries is also a worthy reminder that they’re not youngsters anymore. They were tremendous pass rushers last year, but a decline could be coming.

UPDATE: Graham is running with the ones, and Jenkins and Tapp are rotating on the other side.

Willing to Walk Away?

Jonathan Tamari pens an excellent mini-profile of Trent Cole:

“I might play into another contract,” Cole said. He added that he hopes to finish his career as an Eagle - “When they cut me, I’m, ‘OK. I’m ready to retire,’ ” - but then hedged when asked if he could ever play elsewhere.

“No,” he said, “unless the money’s right, for real.”

That’s a strange quote Tamari picked up, about being willing to retire when the Eagles let him go. Cole gives the money qualifier after, but it’s still an odd insight into the mindset of the Eagles’ stellar but typically reserved defensive end.

Post-Draft Position Breakdown: Defensive End

Darryl Tapp Juqua Parker

What the Eagles did: Back in February, I ran the numbers on the pass rush from the Eagles defensive line. The results were telling:

2011 Eagles Defensive Ends

While production was way up across the entire group (thanks Wash), there was a clear separation. Trent Cole and Jason Babin were spectacular, and with any luck we can get similar production from that duo going forward. They are Pro Bowl-caliber players going into their 30 and 32-year-old seasons, respectively. That places them on the tail end of their prime, most likely, but certainly still in it. No worries there for 2012.

The next pairing I would group are Philip Hunt and Brandon Graham — the question marks. I’m not so sure about his run defense, but Hunt’s pass rushing in limited snaps showed tremendous potential. I’m very interested to see if he can increase his role this season. Graham basically experienced a lost year in 2012. This is his make-or-break campaign. He has the raw talent to push for serious playing time, or he could fall away completely.

The final two were Juqua Parker and Darryl Tapp. As situational pass rushers, neither player was bad, per se. But compared to the rest of the group? The Eagles let Parker walk in free agency, and Tapp now has serious competition to remain on the roster.

Meanwhile, the team added Vinny Curry in the second round, making him the most talented football-playing Eagles fan anywhere. Curry slots right in with Hunt and Graham at this point. He’s young, ideally-suited to Jim Washburn’s schemes, and could contribute right away.

What I would have done: I might have tried to trade Darryl Tapp away during the draft for an extra pick, but I can see the logic in keeping him around at this point. After Babin and Cole, Tapp is the only defensive end with starting experience. He’s a solid veteran insurance policy, even if he looks like the odd man out right now.

Other than that one nitpicky point, solid job by Howie Roseman.

Way-too-early prediction: Especially with the flexibility to slide Cullen Jenkins and Fletcher Cox outside, I can’t imagine the Eagles would keep more than five players at defensive end. Barring injuries, Cole, Babin, Graham, and Curry are all locked in. As I discussed above, there’s reason to be fairly bullish about Hunt’s chances as well. That puts Tapp (and whichever free agent replaces the now-injured Maurice Favorite) out on the street.

Other than that general roster prognostication, I don’t really have any idea who will emerge as the first guy off the bench. It should be one of the more interesting positions to watch from a playing-time competition standpoint.

Photo from Getty.

Vinny Curry, Best Player Available

Chris McPherson:

Roseman hinted that the team has previously made some reaches in order to fill a need. Roseman was certainly tested in his third draft as the Eagles’ general manager. No situation better highlighted Roseman’s mission than what was presented to them with the 59th overall pick when the Eagles selected Marshall defensive end Vinny Curry.

“He was the best player on our board,” Roseman said. “He was standing out to us. We just felt like we were in a position where we had to take him. He’s a talented guy.”

Since the first press conference after Curry was drafted, the Eagles front office and PR squad have aggressively hawked the fact that he was the best player available — something they haven’t found necessary to mention (let alone pound into the narrative) with any other draft pick. Methinks they dost protect someone’s feelings too much.

Brandon Graham, Bust?

Dave Spadaro:

Graham is back at square one, in a sense. The Eagles are counting on him to deliver the promise that made him a first-round draft pick. Is he that special player who the Eagles coveted so much that they traded up in the first round to acquire? Or is he just not the right fit in the league?

Or is Graham somewhere between the two extremes?

“Day by day,” he says. “I’m just taking it day by day.”

Maybe I’m the only one, but this was the first time I read a puff piece on the Eagles website and came away thinking the profiled player was more of a bust then when I started reading.

Inside Trent Cole's Contract Extension

Brian McIntyre has the details of Trent Cole’s contract. Here is the basic breakdown:

2012: $8 million signing bonus, plus original $3 million salary now guaranteed.
2013: Original $3.5 million salary now guaranteed.
2014: New $5 million salary (plus $500,000 $ack$-based bonus).
2015: New $10 million salary.
2016: New $11 million salary.
2017: New $14 million salary.

Cole turns 30 this year, which should give you a sense of which years are more or less fake money. To my eyes, the last three years all look unlikely. The Eagles gave Cole a lot of security by guaranteeing the final two years of his old contract and handing him a signing bonus on top of it. The 2014 additional year also looks attainable and very reasonably priced. After that, I don’t see the Eagles paying $10 million or more per year for a 33-year-old and up.

Still, don’t let that detract from what the deal really means. It’s not intended to purchase many more years of performance, but rather to serve as a thank you gift, a reward for Cole’s quiet excellence over the last few years. And in many ways, that’s more important.