Philadelphia Eagles News

Cole And Babin: Perfect Together

You see them laughing and joking in the locker room, at the lunch table at the NovaCare Complex and walking to their trucks in the parking lot after practice. They both share the same passion for hunting, and on the field they share the same insatiable appetite for sacking quarterbacks.

"He's my man," said Cole of Babin. "He's a great friend and he's a great player."

It's fair to say, as Babin ranks second in the NFL with 15 sacks and Cole, with 9, approaches double digits in sacks for the fourth time in his career, that the pair rank as one of the top duos in franchise history.

Their combined 24 quarterback sacks leaves Babin and Cole within striking distance, for sure, of the Eagles record for combined sacks by a pair of defensive ends in a single season. Clyde Simmons (19) and Reggie White (14) combined for 33 in 1992.

We'll see if Cole and Babin get there, and whether they do or not is almost irrelevant. The point here is that the Eagles have long searched for a capable second dominating pass rusher to team with Cole, who in years past tended to wear down carrying the pass-rushing load. Babin, thriving under defensive line coach Jim Washburn, is the great fit.

"I knew coming in here that I would have a chance to be really productive," said Babin, who had 20 total tackles and 2 1/2 sacks in his 2009 stint with the Eagles. "I love the way I'm being used. Get up the field. That's me. Get to the quarterback. Play hard and chase down the football."

Cole and Babin were at their best in Sunday's sack-fest in Miami. They each had three sacks, part of a nine-sack effort against two Dolphins quarterbacks. It was, as Babin said after the game, "what we have been dreaming about all season."

The task on Sunday against the Jets is the same: Cole and Babin are being counted on to get to quarterback Mark Sanchez and hurry him and force turnovers. New York also likes to get a physical running game going, so the task is substantial.

But the Eagles have a good thing going with Cole and with Babin, both of whom have worked hard and have overcome many hurdles in their careers. Cole was a fifth-round draft pick in 2005, a 'tweener who some saw as an outside linebacker with pass-rushing abilities. The Eagles saw him as a player who could thrive with his hand in the dirt, so Cole pushed himself to the limit, became stronger and added some weight and made an instant impact in the defense, registering 5 sacks in the final 7 games of the year.

Babin, a first-round pick by Houston in 2004, stuck there for three seasons before joining Seattle in 2007 and half of 2008. Babin finished the 2008 season in Kansas City, registering a total of 15 sacks in those five campaigns.

The Eagles gave Babin a shot in 2009 and he flashed in limited duty, but then Babin became a free agent after the season and he went to Tennessee to work with Washburn. In Babin, Washburn saw an end with a great burst off the line of scrimmage, excellent hands and a non-stop motor. Washburn worked Babin hard and turned him into a Pro Bowl defensive end last season.

When Babin became an unrestricted free agent this year, and with Washburn in place as the Eagles' defensive line coach, the reunion was a natural fit.

"I think everybody knows how I feel about him and what he has meant to my career," said Babin. "He's brought out in me what I knew was inside. I knew what I was capable of doing. Now it's here and I love it. We're getting better and better on defense. It's coming together for us."

Nobody appreciates Babin's presence than Cole, who made the Pro Bowl following the 2007 and 2009 seasons. Cole is, as we know, a high-energy player who has as much love and vigor for the game as any Eagle in recent memory. But he's 275 pounds, max, and the body tends to wear down just a bit over the course of 65 snaps each game.

Plus, with no other pass rusher stepping forward on a down-in, down-out basis, Cole seemed just plain worn out in the final months of recent seasons. Cole had only 3 sacks in his last 7 games in 2010, and in 2009 he recorded 3 sacks in the final 5 games.

To the naked eye, Cole was just plumb tuckered out, at least enough to take that edge away from his all-out game.

Enter Babin, and a ferocious pass rush that has produced 42 team sacks in 13 games.

"We play off of each other great," said Cole. "Teams have to pay attention to Jason and what he does and that helps me a lot. It's just fun out there. I love having him here as my teammate. It's a great fit for all of us."

No question about that. The Eagles hope to keep the flame burning against the Jets on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field, with a pair of standout defensive ends who are brothers in arms on and off the field leading the way.

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