From 2009-2011 Trent Cole racked up 33.5 sacks. He was a force off the edge. Not only was he an outstanding pass rusher, Cole was a very good run defender. He was everything you would want in a RDE. Expectations were sky high in 2012. The season began…
And then depression set in.
Cole had the worst year of his career. He finished with just 3 sacks, despite starting all 16 games. There was a calf injury back in the summer, but that wasn’t severe enough to bother him all year. I asked around on Cole and a few people said he just wasn’t himself in 2012. Some feel that Jim Washburn was the main problem. For some reason, he and Trent never saw eye to eye.
It is also possible that Trent just started to slip due to age. He turned 30 in October. Trent is one of the toughest, hardest-working players the Eagles have ever had, but no one escapes Father Time. (Just ask the 3 wise men…Domo, Les, and Roob.)
The reason for encouragement is that Cole played 2 of his best games after Washburn was fired. Trent was very good against Cincy and Washington. He totaled 10 tackles, a sack, and was regularly disruptive in those games.
Dave Spadaro wrote a column on Trent. I’m not sure how we’re supposed to read between the lines here, but it doesn’t feel encouraging. Here are some of the key parts:
Cole has dropped in coverage many times over the years and he’s done a good job in the occasional zone scheme. Now, though, the consideration is how he would perform on a full-time basis.
How effective would Cole be as a rush linebacker, at 270 pounds, at the age of 30 (31 in October)? You know how the NFL feels about players on the other side of 30 years old, no matter how superbly conditioned they are and no matter how hard they work or how technically sound they may be. In many circles, 30 is the age of concern in the NFL.
The Eagles have some young and promising pieces to work with along their defensive front. They’ve invested high draft picks and free-agency dollars and trade assets to bolster the line over these last many years. The front four was seen as a strength heading into 2012, and the startling drop in production was a mystery to all.
It’s fair to say, then, as the Eagles go through the process of evaluating their existing personnel and mulling scheme strategies that how they view Cole will play strongly into the direction they take in the offseason as far as free agency, the draft and the possibility of changing to a 3-4 front.
It feels like Dave is hinting to us that the Eagles will switch to a 3-4 and go looking for a top pass rusher. If Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman saw Cole as a key to the defense, they might stay 4-3. Instead, Fletcher Cox may now be the key to the defense and he fits the 3-4 just fine. Could be that Dave is just thinking out loud, so to speak.
Trent controls his destiny. If he plays well, he’ll keep a job. If you listen to him and believe his words, Trent will do everything in his power to get back to 10 sacks and being a top pass rusher. 2012 did not sit well with him, as an individual or as part of the Eagles.
I am highly biased. I was a big fan of Trent’s coming out of Cincinnati. Here was my response on a message board to his being picked:
Getting Trent Cole is awesome. They showed him (listed) as a LB. Interesting. I guess they’ll give him a shot at SAM. I would like to see him get a shot at RDE. He isn’t that much smaller than ND Kalu was when he came out of Rice.
The big question at the time was whether Cole would be a LB or DE. Cole spent a lot of Senior Bowl week at LB. I thought he was lost and should be a pass rusher, whether as DE or 3-4 OLB. Thankfully the Eagles put him at RDE and turned him loose on QBs.
Here is a write-up I did on him back then.
Goes about 6’2, 245. NFL.com lists him at 257, but I’m not so sure about that. Needs to play DE no matter what. Could play LB, but Trent is a pass rusher. Looks athletic. More quick than fast. Can explode off the ball. Does a good job of using arms to get into the OL and keep some separation. Has long arms. Hustles. Knocked over the LT on one play by exploding at the snap and getting into him before the T could get set. Can shed blocks. Makes plays in the backfield, whether on the RB or QB. Disruptive. Has good closing speed in getting to the QB. Good effort pursuing plays, but lacks the pure speed to be special in that regard. He’ll battle Jamaal Green for the #5 DE spot. I tend to think Cole will get the job. Could develop into a solid rotational DE.
It is funny to look back and see that he was expected to be more of a situational pass rusher than a starter.
He was a mystery back then and is a mystery today. The question isn’t whether he’ll pan out, but rather whether he’s over the hill or if 2012 was an anomaly, for whatever reason.
I’ll be pulling for Trent to have a bounce-back season, whether at RDE or ROLB in the 3-4. I can’t say with any certainty that he’ll get back to being a force off the edge, but I sure hope that is what happens. One thing I do know is that Trent will give everything he has to get back to his previous level. If he fails, it won’t be due to lack of effort.