Philadelphia Eagles News

Position-By-Position Look At The Defense

Here is a breakdown of the defense following Saturday's transactions ...

Defensive End (6) - Victor Abiamiri, Jason Babin, Chris Clemons, Trent Cole, Darren Howard, Juqua Parker

The Eagles are known for rotating their defensive ends to keep them fresh and to incorporate the numerous pass rush specialists. But the foundation at defensive end is Trent Cole, the relentless, high-motor ironman who is dependable for all three downs on the right side. Cole was second on the team with 9.0 sacks last season, but he is the end that opposing offenses key in on trying to stop.

Victor Abiamiri enters his third year with a wealth of potential for a big year in 2009. Abiamiri is a physical beast at 267 pounds and is natural in stopping the run. He's worked hard on evolving his pass rush technique so that it looks more natural on the field. He battled injury in training camp

Juqua Parker is the incumbent starter at the left defensive end. Parker is a terrific athlete who is best used in specialized situations. Parker was one of the hardest-working players in the off-season conditioning program and started the first three preseason games. However, it is Abiamiri who is listed as the first-team left defensive end on the depth chart.

So, if Cole didn't lead the Eagles in sacks last season then who did? Darren Howard. A big free agent signing in 2006, Howard finally maximized his talent with his highest sack output since when he was a Saint in 2004.

Chris Clemons was signed last off-season as a pass rush specialist. He started slow, but posted four sacks in the final nine games. Jason Babin is the wild card in this mix. Signed on August 4 to add depth to the competition at the position, Babin flourished with an amazing preseason. A first-round pick of the Texans in 2004, Babin was moved from defensive end to linebacker and never fully adapted. With good strength, aggressiveness and a high-motor, Philadelphia might just be the ideal place suited for Babin's talents. Babin was re-signed to a contract with new terms on Friday.

Defensive Tackle (3) - Brodrick Bunkley, Trevor Laws, Mike Patterson

Brodrick Bunkley and Mike Patterson are an ideal complement for one another. Bunkley is the hulking, physical wrecking ball, while Patterson is the high-energy workhorse who plays with great leverage and technique. If there is an area where they can improve, it would be the ability to collapse the pocket and generate more pressure on the quarterback.

Last year's top draft pick, Trevor Laws, played about 15 snaps per game by the end of the season and the Eagles hope that he will earn even more this season even with Bunkley and Patterson ahead of him. Laws is very similar to Patterson in build and style of play. Laws plays with very good balance and hand technique.

Linebacker (6) - Moise Fokou, Omar Gaither, Chris Gocong, Akeem Jordan, Joe Mays, Tracy White

The Eagles are set on the outside with Akeem Jordan the starter on the weak side and Chris Gocong over on the strong side. Jordan's tenacity and quickness allow him to be a force against the run while having the ability to cover in space. Even though he may be undersized, Jordan has the smarts to get in position and execute with good leverage.

Chris Gocong was a prolific pass rusher in college who was moved to strongside linebacker with the Eagles. He has done a fantastic job against the run in funneling the play back towards the middle.

The Eagles now have to figure out who they're going to put at middle linebacker. The loss of Stewart Bradley, a classic three-down linebacker who has Pro Bowl talent, is a tough one to replace. Joe Mays started in the preseason, but in just his second year is learning how to read and react to different offenses. Omar Gaither, who said that he is currently the opening day starter, is more versatile and has more range in coverage than Mays.

Moise Fokou's presence was felt in the preseason and the seventh-round pick could not be ignored. In fact, the outside linebacker was given a chance to play in the middle with the first-team in the preseason just to see what he could do. And this was after just two practices and never having played it in college or high school. Fokou is a rookie, but a little older than most at 24 years old. He's smart, aggressive and always finds a way around the football. He made mistakes, but wasn't afraid to come back harder on the next play.

Tracy White's final play of the preseason was an interception near the goal line against the Colts. That, combined with his special teams play, was enough to beat out Matt Wilhelm and Tank Daniels for the final spot in the linebacker rotation. The fact that White is a six-year veteran who excels on special teams shows just how important it is that Ted Daisher has someone who he can trust to lead his unit.

Cornerback (5) - Sheldon Brown, Joselio Hanson, Ellis Hobbs, Dimitri Patterson, Asante Samuel

One of the deepest positions on the roster is led by two-time Pro Bowl selection Asante Samuel. Blessed with amazing closing speed and great instincts, Samuel led the Eagles with four interceptions last season. He stepped his game up in the playoffs with two more picks and a touchdown.

Sheldon Brown is the starter at the right cornerback spot. The ideal complement to the electrifying playmaker in Samuel, Brown is a physical, tough-nosed players who packs a wallop when he hits and has good man-to-man cover skills.

The Eagles traded for another cornerback on draft weekend who is similar to Brown in Ellis Hobbs, who happened to be the starting cornerback opposite of Samuel during New England's 16-0 season in 2007. Hobbs has only missed one game in his four-year career and he's registered 11 interceptions. In addition, he's one of the league's most dynamic kickoff returners. He averaged 27.7 yards per return for his career and owns the NFL record for longest kickoff return with a 108-yard score in 2007.

Joselio Hanson toiled in anonymity since joining the Eagles in 2006, but won the nickel cornerback job last season and was rewarded with a new five-year contract this off-season. Hanson is feisty and quick and is the perfect slot cornerback for the Eagles' scheme.

Dimitri Patterson, a four-year NFL vet, won the fifth cornerback job over Jack Ikegwuonu. The primary gunner on special teams, Patterson was signed during the Eagles' playoff run with an eye for competing for a spot now. Patterson previously played in Kansas City where he had 14 special teams tackles in 20 games over the past two years.

Safety (4) - Quintin Demps, Macho Harris, Sean Jones, Quintin Mikell

There is no question about who the starter at strong safety is - Quintin Mikell. In his first full-year as a starter after six years in the league, Mikell had 169 tackles, three interceptions and four forced fumbles. Mikell was lauded with second-team All-Pro honors.

The other three safeties on the 53-man roster all made cases during training camp and the preseason for the right to play alongside Mikell at the free safety spot. Quintin Demps was the starter since the start of the spring camps. In his rookie season, Demps was deployed as a hybrid cornerback/safety. He had 17 interceptions in college and the Eagles hope he can replicate those numbers as a pro.

Macho Harris battled an illness after he was drafted which kept him from getting on the field. Now, he could be the opening day starter opposite Mikell. A fifth-round draft pick, Harris has picked up the safety position - the toughest on the Eagles defense - and earned first-team snaps late in the preseason. Harris picked off 15 passes during his college career at Virginia Tech and returned four of them for touchdowns.

Of course, there's also the veteran Sean Jones, who is third among all NFL safeties in interceptions since the 2006 season.

Specialists (3) - David Akers, Jon Dorenbos, Sav Rocca

No surprises here. Once punter Ken Parrish was released during training camp, there was no competition for any of these positions. Akers is coming off one of his best seasons as a pro in 2008. He had a career-high 144 points and at one point hit 15 consecutive field goals. He also had a career-high 17 touchbacks. Sav Rocca set the team's single-season record for net punting with a 37.9 average. He recorded a 42.0-plus net average in eight different games last season. He had done that just once in his rookie season of 2007. As for Jon Dorenbos, if you look up the word reliable in the dictionary there's a picture of him there. It's hard to fathom that the Eagles would seamlessly transition from one outstanding long snapper (Mike Bartrum) to Dorenbos back in 2006.

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