State of Eagles' Defense - Part 3 - Defensive Line

Written By Bob Cunningham On Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Last season the defensive line was good. Not great, but good. They helped lead the way for the third ranked defense in the NFL, and the best overall defense in the NFC. However, there is room for improvement.

Trent Cole is a Pro Bowl guy, and has been year in and year out. He’s been phenomenal during his career with the Eagles and is recognized throughout the league by offensive coordinators as a guy for whom they must gameplan.

He commands the double team, which should allow for other players to make plays. Unfortunately that has not happened as much as it should from the guys on the other side, specifically Juqua Parker.

Parker accounted for only five sacks last season, being overshadowed by Darren Howard who doubled that amount with 10. Chris Clemons, the third end, finished with one less than Parker with four.

In the Eagles’ Jim Johnson-led defense, no one player will have more than between 13-15 sacks because of all the rotation and various blitz packages for various players. But with that said, five is just simply not enough out of a guy who is supposed to be our starter opposite Cole.

Howard has had a resurgence and could, or rather should, overtake Parker for the starting role while limiting him to a backup status (which for this defense of rotation simply means Howard should start getting some of Parker’s snaps).

Clemons, Victor Abiamiri, and second-year man Bryan Smith should all push for more playing time at defensive end next year. A healthy Abiamiri and Smith will mean more fresh legs and more speed on the edge, allowing for more sacks in ‘09 than in ‘08.

No one should be shocked if the Eagles also decide to take a defensive end in the middle rounds, somewhere between the third and fifth.

Brodrick Bunkley was originally drafted to be an inside pass-rushing presence more than a run-stuffer, but it would appear as though the opposite has happened. Bunkley was only able to muster up two sacks last year (to put that into perspective Dan Klecko had two in the first three games he played defense - more on him later), but came on big in the running game.

Bunkley’s most memorable plays from last season would have to be his stuffs of Eli Manning and Brandon Jacobs on fourth-down plays in the playoffs.

Mike Patterson also suffered in the area of rushing the passer, coming up with zero sacks last season. That’s struggling at its best. However Patterson seems to be in the same boat as Bunkley in that he has come on very strong in stopping the run and being a huge presence in the middle.

In their defense, these guys do come off the field on third downs to make way for Johnson’s pass-rushing line consisting of Howard and Abiamiri in the middle.

However with that said, they still need to step up on first and second down to get pressure on the quarterback. If they show they can get to the passer, perhaps they can be left in on third down.

Trevor Laws was the Eagles’ first pick in the draft last year, going 47th overall in the second round. Laws seems to have a lot of potential and should find his way into some healthy playing time in the coming years if he can turn that potential into production when he gets the limited time he’ll likely be receiving for at least another year.

Dan Klecko will likely be coming back to his natural position, and that’s right where he belongs. Weaver is a significant upgrade at fullback, and I’m sure Klecko will be happy to bulk back up and play defense.

He played admirably, but what we saw was the best we were getting out of Klecko on offense. He showed promise last year as a defensive tackle, registering two sacks in the first three games before being switched to fullback.

Now Klecko can go back to defense while making the occasional appearance on offense inside the 20’s.

Overall this is a group filled with immense talent. Some of that talent when untapped last year and must be taken advantage of in 2009. The line is what makes this defense go, and without a good year from the line we Philly fans could go through a rather agonizing season.

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