The Trent Cole Mystery

Posted: January 30th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 31 Comments »

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. 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.


31 Comments on “The Trent Cole Mystery”

  1. 1 austinfan said at 11:34 PM on January 30th, 2013:

    Trent is not a 3-4 OLB, it would be stupid to play him there, even if he drops 10 lbs, he’s simply not a space athlete.

    However, even 3-4 teams only play that formation about 40-50% of snaps, the rest of the time they’re in a 4-2-5 or 3-3-5 or 4-1-6. Trent as a designated pass rusher who plays 50% of snaps might have two seasons left in him. Fresh legs off the bench may be better for him at this point in his career (same for Jenkins).

    Thing is, Trent was never a great athlete, he wasn’t a natural 260 lb DE like Graham or Fuller, he’s a bulked up 260 lbs, he’s not an explosive edge rusher like Hugh, he’s a leverage guy who depends as much on getting low and technique. So he was going to fade earlier than elite DEs in any case.

  2. 2 ceteris_paribus1776 said at 12:22 AM on January 31st, 2013:

    My gut reaction is also that Trent doesn’t belong in the the 3-4, but not because he isn’t a space athlete. On almost all obvious pass situations Trent will be coming off the edge the same way Miller, Ware, Harrison etc. do. You don’t handcuff your best pass rushers by asking them to drop back just because they now don’t have their knuckle on the ground and have a OLB beside their name on the roster instead of DE.

    My concern would be that he wouldn’t be as effective rushing the passer. He currently relies on a quick first step and leverage as you pointed out. Part of that is that he gets wound up like a spring and releases. You don’t have that same starting point standing up. You do need to be more athletic in my opinion to rush the passer from an upright position. That isn’t set in stone, but I believe it to be true for the majority of players.

    You also engage the blocker at a different angle. Tent needs to be low and I’m not sure he has the “bend” the way Harrison does. Trent starts out low so staying low is easier from his 4-point stance than I image it would be if he were standing up and bending around the edge from an OLB spot.

    All that said, he did have some success rushing the passer under McDermott from an upright position

  3. 3 Anders said at 3:57 AM on January 31st, 2013:

    I think Cole and Jenkins will do very well if they only play limited snaps.

  4. 4 D3FB said at 1:28 AM on January 31st, 2013:

    As much as it would pain me to see him go, any chance we could see him traded to another team? Do we try to trade him for a pick? I’m not sure if the value would be there (probably only a 5), so then do we have to look for a team that has a need at 43 DE but has an expendable part that would be of use to our new scheme?

  5. 5 Skeptic_Eagle said at 8:55 AM on January 31st, 2013:

    I can’t see getting much, if anything, for him in trade. Pure 4-3 Defensive ends are becoming less ubiquitous around the league, Cole is coming off a very poor year, and the Front Office just signed him to a big $$$ extension. Accept that you’re not going to get the full value of what you signed him for, figure out a way to maximize the football production he’s got left, and try and learn from the experience.

  6. 6 ATLeagle said at 12:17 PM on January 31st, 2013:

    agreed. Age and salary would likely dictate getting Asante-type value. Wouldnt be worth it.

  7. 7 Mac said at 10:25 AM on January 31st, 2013:

    Trent Cole is familiar with Sean McD’s scheme… if he would rework his contract maybe we could get a 5th rounder?

  8. 8 Ark87 said at 12:02 PM on January 31st, 2013:

    if we could restructure him I bet we could get a 3rd. A proven DE is valuable in this league, even if it is just for depth or as a role player. Keep in mind we traded Chris Clemmons and a 4th round draft pick for Darryl tapp (that hurt to type).

  9. 9 qwerty uiop said at 1:59 AM on January 31st, 2013:

    Don’t forget Cole’s shoulder injury during pre-season. They said it was minor, but shoulder injuries are slow to heal and can sap you of a lot of power. As good as his speed rush is, Trent Cole’s used to bowling people over, so I think it played a role.

  10. 10 Anirudh Jangalapalli said at 7:50 AM on January 31st, 2013:

    Apropos of nothing, Tommy, I wonder if you’ve been following this riveting story about Twinkies. There are two firms in the lead for buying Hostess and one of them is Metropoulos & Co., the company that owns Pabst Blue Ribbon.

  11. 11 TommyLawlor said at 10:05 AM on January 31st, 2013:

    I have followed it passively. I drank a couple of PBRs last night to show my support. They’re doing god’s work.

  12. 12 Mac said at 10:23 AM on January 31st, 2013:

    You mean; they’re on a mission from God.

  13. 13 Sb2bowl said at 11:19 AM on January 31st, 2013:

    Are they wearing sunglasses?

  14. 14 Michael Riccardi said at 11:53 AM on January 31st, 2013:

    It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes and it’s dark

  15. 15 P_P_K said at 12:06 PM on January 31st, 2013:

    Hit it!

  16. 16 Sb2bowl said at 12:07 PM on January 31st, 2013:


  17. 17 Skeptic_Eagle said at 8:52 AM on January 31st, 2013:

    Having Trent Cole’s status strongly affect possible scheme changes is the wrong way to go. If they decide that Cole is not a good fit for the 3-4, so be it. They just extended him, so I doubt he’s going anywhere–would be a huge cap hit–but they may have to try and utilize him in specific rush packages, only. Maybe Vinny Curry’s someone with the kind of coverage flexibility to transition to the OLB spot in the base defense.

    Personally, I’ve felt that Cole’s ability to shed blocks is somewhat diminished, and that his ability to stay balanced on contact has fallen off a bit. As a lunchpail-type rusher, he’s going to have to win with technique and will, but he needs a bare minimum of physical skills, as well. I’m worried those have eroded.

    I, like you, hope he returns to form; however, even if he does return to form for a season or two, the grains in the in top half of the hourglass are dropping through quickly. To make a major decision about the defensive alignment, or draft philosophy based on Cole strikes me as short-sighted.

  18. 18 Bighouse1 said at 9:00 AM on January 31st, 2013:

    Dave is nothing if not completely transparent. The Eagles are switching to the 3-4, and Cole is as good as gone. Dave is correct in that Trent doesn’t fit the scheme. It’s too bad, because Trent has been such a great player, and he showed he still has it in the games following Washburn’s dismissal last year.

    It looks like they will give Graham, and I would guess Curry (though he doesn’t fit either) a chance to play OLB in the new scheme and draft someone in the first couple of rounds to play the weak side.

    Look for Trent to be traded on draft day or prior to the draft as he does still have value and probably has a couple of good seasons left in him.

    How about Trent and a high draft pick for Demarcus Ware?? Win-win for both teams… 🙂

  19. 19 Ark87 said at 11:49 AM on January 31st, 2013:

    So the Theory would go, Dave is a transparent mouthpiece of the Eagles organization, and if he is singling out Trent Cole’s bad year, this could mean the Eagles are softening fans for a departure of Cole (a fan favorite).

  20. 20 Bighouse1 said at 2:30 PM on January 31st, 2013:

    Well, I think that has been pretty consistent for many years. The only time I would ever bother reading his stuff is in the offseason to understand what the team is going to do for any particular situation. You can always tell their intentions based on how they are trying to position a given story or message.

    In this case, the reality is that Trent is gone… so the narrative has to be around his age, decline in production, etc. It is true that Trent doesn’t fit a 3-4 at any position… so hopefully the change in scheme benefits the team more in the long run than the short term challenges of losing at least some productive players (like Trent) and developing new ones.

  21. 21 A_T_G said at 9:39 AM on January 31st, 2013:

    As a cap hit, Cole would be 6.4m to cut, so I don’t see that happening. His contract over the next two seasons is only 3.5m and 5m. Those are not unreasonable. After that it jumps to 10m, 10m, 14m for the final three years, but there must be some escape clause to void them. (Right? RIGHT?)

    If the only real commitment is 8.5 million over two years, I could see him having a role here, situationally and hoping for him to show he deserves more, or for a pass rush hungry 43 team looking to get over the hump.

    I guess the other side is that while it would cost 6.4m against the cap to release him, it costs 5.4m against the cap to keep him. So, an extra million against the cap plus the cost of the repacement’s salary to get out of the situation? I guess it is not outside the realm of possibility. I still think he has too much value, and the possibility of bouncing back somewhat to just drop him.

  22. 22 Sb2bowl said at 11:28 AM on January 31st, 2013:

    If the guarantee money is up front (which I believe it is) the Eagles will be fine; they usually back load contracts (nice bonus pay up front for the player) knowing that the player will not usually get to that point (and if they do, another restructure is ordered with another “bonus”)

  23. 23 bdbd20 said at 10:57 AM on January 31st, 2013:

    Is it possible for Trent to put on a few pounds and play end in a 3-4? I’d hate to see him go, but playing outside does worry me.

  24. 24 Erik L. Richardson said at 10:58 AM on January 31st, 2013:

    I think father time MAY have caught up with Brother Cole. Last season as dreadful as it was, saw Trent lack the usual explosiveness and 2 standout plays a game he usually got. He wasn’t DT’d at all, some of the LT’s he used to beat up on returned the favor to him. And one that really stood out was his lack of making solid tackles. Trent would always be a sure tackler if nothing else. He’s built to go forward and up. Which is why I also thought he would excel in the w-9. Whenever Trent was asked to drop in coverage, it was a terrible idea for many reasons. The main being that Trent is not a side to side, read, recognize and react player with speed and quickness to play out in space. This is another reason why he’s not a great fit for the 3-4. His salary and tutelage keeps him here. He deserves to prove himself as a 1 year aberration. But, if this year goes poor for him, 3-4 or not. We have to be ready to move forward past the Trent Cole era.

  25. 25 Kevin said at 11:01 AM on January 31st, 2013:

    Tommy, not sure if this is a stupid question as I’m not as familiar with the personnel requirements of the 3-4… but is there no way Cole could play as a DE? I know 270 is light for the position, but he does excel against the run. Justin Smith, Antonio Smith, and Brett Keisel are listed as 285. Is 3-4 DE simply out of the question? Cox is pretty much a lock to start at one DE spot but the other doesn’t seem so settled… Jenkins? Thornton? Maybe Cole could be in the mix.

  26. 26 EaglesHero87 said at 11:25 AM on January 31st, 2013:

    I have been a huge supporter of Trent Cole ever since he got drafted back in 2005. For him to be released or traded due to personnel reasons would be majorly disappointing for me but understandable. I do, however, have several questions regarding his role, in which I hope will further your support in keeping hinm:

    1) Since there have been no confirmed reports that the Eagles will be heading into 3-4…yet, what about the possibility of utilizing a hybrid 3-4/4-3 defense? Whenever the situations call for a 4-3 defense, put in Cole in his usual position as RDE. This would allow him to continue his usual position, and also limit his snaps during 3-4 packages. Thoughts?

    2) Cole’s hardwork ethics and his status as an outstanding team player should not go unnoticed. Yes, I’m aware he signed a contract extension during the offseason before 2012 started, but could he take a pay cut? Perhaps not a huge one, but enough to hopefully stay on the team. His attitude would help the younger players continue to work hard and keep their on-field plays in check.

  27. 27 Bebin Abraham said at 11:48 AM on January 31st, 2013:

    So Tommy if we do go with a 3-4 base do you think we’ll add a starting LOLB bc those dudes are more complete packages in terms of being a defender. As in rushing the passer, out in coverage, etc. I don’t know if Graham, Cole or Curry can do that. So do you think we target someone like Kruger or Barwin in FA or maybe Dion Jordan in the draft

  28. 28 BobSmith77 said at 12:33 PM on January 31st, 2013:

    My favorite Eagles’ player the last few years. Always plays hard even this year when the team was out of it and several players on defense at times gave questionable efforts.

    I just don’t see how he’s a fit in a 3-4 scheme though. Eagles’ might keep him around because they simply have so many areas of need but I don’t see Cole being an Eagles’ uniform beyond next year.

  29. 29 ACViking said at 1:09 PM on January 31st, 2013:

    Re: Cole’s Measurements / Cap Number


    C-Kelly seems to have certain size requirements for each position. On the edge, he wants long DE/OLBs. His Oregon recruits bear that out.

    Trent Cole is many things. But tall and lean is not among them.

    Is this alone enough to send TC packing?


    Why should the Cap Hit make a difference? The Eagles aren’t winning the SB next year (unless something miraculous happens at QB — and there’re no Dutch Van Brocklins out there).

    So why not cut Cole loose now if that’s CK’s inclination. (Unless he sees Cole as worth keeping, obviously.)

    I’d like to believe that CK — in his interview w/ Lurie & Roseman — received assurance that he’d not be saddled with the decisions, including financial decisions, of the prior regime.

    Also . . . A_T_G made the great point that there’s only a million dollars’ difference between keeping Cole and cutting Cole. And let’s assume the Eagles go young at DE/OLB . . . it’ll be close to a wash.

    (A_T_G: My hats off to you on a great observation.)

    Kelly’s goal in his first season — as it was for Reid, Ryan, and Vermeil — is transform the team from your predecessor’s to your own.

    Maybe there’s a team out there would trade something for T-Cole. (If George Allen were around, he’d certainly add Cole for a 4th Rounder).

    But I just hope Kelly doesn’t let the cap get in the way this year, given that the Eagles are huge long shot to win. And the goal right now should be transforming the team.

    All of this, of course, is qualified by: “Assuming Kelly doesn’t see Cole as a keeper.”

  30. 30 Sifter said at 4:55 PM on January 31st, 2013:

    I just think that people focus too much on sacks. Sacks are golden, yes, but even the best players only get roughly 1 per game. 1 sack in 30-40+ pass rushes per game is a bit of a lottery really. Better to look deeper and see how disruptive he was on other plays too. Looking at Pro Football Focus stats for Trent, they have him ranked only 35th among 4-3 ends in total sacks, but he is 23rd in hurries (29), and 6th in hits (13) -a much better season of numbers than his sack tally would suggest.

    I’d much rather see the Eagles fix the secondary first, while trying to coach up the existing front 7 talent in 3-4 principles before the front office goes crazy trying to draft a bunch of 3-4 guys.

  31. 31 DanJ3645 said at 5:06 PM on January 31st, 2013:

    Regardless of the realities of Trent’s performance last year and this coming year,
    I’ll be pulling for him to stay an Eagle.