Experience: 10th year
Acquired: Selected in the fifth round of the 2005 NFL Draft (No. 146 overall)
With a new coaching staff in place, the Eagles switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defensive scheme in 2013. With that change, one of the biggest questions surrounding the team was the way that veteran Trent Cole would respond to a change of position. For eight years, Cole had stuck his hand in the ground and rushed the quarterback as a defensive end, and he was pretty good at doing so, entering the season third on the Eagles' all-time sack list. Cole was moved to outside linebacker, and although pass rushing was often his assignment, he also had to drop back into coverage more than he ever did previously in his career.
With all of the adjustments that Cole had to make in his first year playing under defensive coordinator Bill Davis, the nine-year pro said that he felt like a rookie during Training Camp. He may have felt that way, but he played anything but like a rookie once the regular season began. The Hunter started off the season in a strong way, recording eight total tackles and a forced fumble against Washington. He also tackled Washington running back Alfred Morris in the end zone for a safety.
While Cole proved that he could adapt to a new role on the defense, his sack numbers took a hit in the first half of the season. In the Eagles' first eight games, Cole recorded five quarterback hurries, but he just couldn't find a way to get that elusive first sack. In the Week 9 visit to Oakland, Cole finally got on the board, bringing down Terrelle Pryor.
The knock on Cole in previous years was that his production tended to drop off as the season progressed. Having one of the hardest motors of any player in the locker room, the wear and tear of the long season had been known to catch up to him in the later months. Blame the sports science program, the personalized smoothies, or whatever else you want to, but the fact of the matter is that Cole's production, from a sack perspective, sky-rocketed as the season rolled on. In the final eight regular season games, Cole notched eight sacks. In doing so, he passed Clyde Simmons into second place on the Eagles' all-time sack list with 79.0 quarterback takedowns, trailing only the late, great Reggie White.
In 2013, Cole provided the leadership in the locker room and on the field that most people expected from him. At the same time, his production, though it may have gotten off to a slow start, was as strong as ever. With another strong season under his belt, Cole continues to cement his legacy as one of the best pass-rushers in Eagles history.
TOP PLAYS OF THE YEAR
An argument can be made that Cole's strip-sack against Carson Palmer in Week 13 against Arizona was his biggest singular play of 2013, as it stalled the Cardinals' opening drive and gave the Eagles momentum right away. But Cole's finest moment came against Chicago in Week 16.
He was wearing a microphone during the game, which picked up defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro telling Cole to, "Take over the game." It's fair to say that's exactly what No. 58 did. Cole got to Bears quarterback Jay Cutler three times, marking the third time in his career that he recorded at least 3.0 sacks in a game, and it was a big statement for the Eagles as they continued their push towards the playoffs. Cole's first sack came on the Bears' opening possession, resulting in a three-and-out. He added two more sacks, one in each of the next two quarters, and was able to sit back and relax for most of the fourth quarter, with the Eagles well on their way towards an eventual 54-11 victory.
In 2013, Cole led the Eagles in sacks (8.0), tackles for loss (10) and forced fumbles (3). He was also second on the team in quarterback pressures (15).