Pro Football Focus began a series ranking the best players at each position based on performances over the past three years. On Monday, the top 4-3 defensive ends were ranked and Trent Cole was without a doubt the cream of the crop at the position.
"In the last three years, Cole has finished fifth (2008), third (2009) and first (2010) in our overall 4-3 DE rankings, so maybe the Eagles defensive end has a point when he talks about how criminally underrated he is," Khaled Elsayed of Pro Football Focus wrote. "He gets credit for his pass rushing, but, interestingly, he may be stronger in run defense – where he has finished with our highest grade in each of the past two years. That's certainly not a slight to his pass rushing ability in that time, where only three defenders have accumulated more total quarterback disruptions."
Pro Football Focus reviews each and every play and assigns a grade. Let's say a defensive end has 15.0 sacks, but disappears on other plays. You will not see that player receive a high grade. Cole was the only defensive end to receive a grade of 100 over the past three years, finishing with a 113.4 mark.
Who are the other names you would expect on this list? Indianapolis' Dwight Freeney was second with a 90.5 grade. Chicago's Julius Peppers was fifth with a 79.68. The Giants' Justin Tuck was sixth and the Vikings' duo of Jared Allen and Ray Edwards came in at seventh and eighth, respectively.
Known for his love of hunting on and off the field, Cole is a two-time Pro Bowl selection and one-time All-Pro. He was named the No. 73 best player in the NFL by his peers in the recent NFL Network Top 100 list.
Cole is third in Eagles history with 57.0 sacks in six seasons. Since 2006, Cole is third in the NFL and second among 4-3 ends with 52.0 sacks. In 2010, Cole led the team in sacks with 10 and also led the team in tackles for loss, QB hurries and was third in total tackles. After posting 12.5 sacks in 2009, Cole became the first Eagle since William Fuller in 1995-96 to post double-digit sacks in consecutive seasons.
Cole has sacked 34 quarterbacks in his career led by the Giants' Eli Manning with 7.0.
Under new defensive line coach Jim Washburn, expect Cole to thrive with the emphasis on lining up wide to take advantage of his speed along with the rotational system that should help keep him fresh.