Whether you thought the Eagles would take the plunge in Thursday's NFL Supplemental Draft and select Kentucky defensive end Jeremy Jarmon, the essence of the position remains the same without him: The Eagles have Trent Cole, who is a premier end. And they also have a lot of other talent. And someone within that other group must emerge as a game-in, game-out force to make this a complete, dominating defense.
The Redskins selected Jarmon in the third round of the Supplemental Draft. They added a talented, and raw, player, and they now don't have a third-round draft pick in April. Whatever. That is their deal.
The Eagles' deal is that they have a pretty darn good group up front. They have Cole, a Pro Bowl-caliber end who is relentless and talented and now a full 270-ish pounder who just comes and comes and keeps coming. But who is the other end? Who starts at left end? Who takes the pressure off of Cole so that everything can work smoothly and explosively up front?
Maybe the best candidate is Victor Abiamiri, now in his third season from Notre Dame. Big and strong at 270-plus pounds, Abiamiri has flashed in the time he has played when injuries have not limited his game. Abiamiri plays the run well, is technically sound and while not an explosive-type of pass rusher, has had success putting pressure on the quarterback.
Abiamiri and Juqua Parker are the leading contenders to start at left end, and they enter training camp in a virtual dead heat. The best scenario is that one of those players takes the reins -- Abiamiri is the player who has the most upside, while Parker is a solid, consistent pro -- and earns the job.
Complementing the group is Darren Howard, a swing lineman who led the team in sacks last season. Howard has great technique and has had by far the best success of the group in his NFL career. But he isn't really at his best playing every snap, so using Howard in the rotation works best.
The other unknown up front is Chris Clemons, who came on last year after a slow start. How good is Clemons? Can he be more than a situational pass rusher? The Eagles need to find out.
Look, this defensive line is pretty good. It's quite good, in fact. And I'm sure the Eagles were interested in Jarmon, just as every team was interested in a 278-pound physical defensive end. To use a second-round draft pick on him would have been a reach, and then Washington used its third-round pick and, well, the idea that he is in Washington is what it is.
The Eagles have to make do and make it happen here. They used a third-round selection last year on Bryan Smith, who is almost as much of an unknown now as he was last August. He came on in the preseason and then didn't play at all last season. He's about 245 pounds and quick, but he has to show he has the strength to play at this level.
So who will emerge to complement Cole? The Eagles need somebody to do so. The intrigue around Jarmon was interesting and it kept us on the edge of our seats a bit in mid-July. But it didn't happen. Jarmon is a Redskin. The Eagles have a couple of projects of their own here at defensive end, namely Abiamiri, Smith and even Clemons.
What they have with Parker is a good player, a solid professional who is going to give great effort and technique. He isn't a star. Howard isn't, either, but he has quite a pedigree based on his career and his resurrection last year.
To be outstanding, super terrific up front, one of the kids has to step up. The candidates are Abiamiri, Smith and Clemons. Who takes that necessary step and gets this line to the next level?