Next up in our bye week positional reviews is defensive end. Here goes ...
What They've Accomplished: If there's one thing the Eagles can count on, it's top-end play from the right defensive end spot. Trent Cole, a two-time Pro Bowler, is once again performing as an elite defensive end. He's got six sacks through seven games, though he did have an uncharacteristic two-game sack drought. Cole is equally adept in defending the run and his value as an every-down player is immeasurable.
On the left side, rookie first-round pick Brandon Graham became the starter in the tail end of the preseason based on his advanced technique for a rookie. Graham has been solid with 2.0 sacks at a position that is traditionally difficult for rookies, but he was replaced as a starter by Juqua Parker, the man he unseated, mid-way through the first-half of the season. The move to Parker was coupled with the promotion of Moise Fokou to strongside linebacker in an effort to beef up the run defense, which has succeeded, as the Eagles have held Pro Bowl running backs Frank Gore, Michael Turner and Chris Johnson to under 100 rushing yards.
After being inactive for the first two games, Darryl Tapp has shown promise as a backup defensive end and situational defensive tackle. Tapp's emergence made Antwan Barnes, acquired for a draft pick on cutdown day, expendable. Third-round draft pick Daniel Te'o-Nesheim also spent the early part of the season inactive before playing in Week 6 and 7, primarily as an inside rusher on passing downs. Veteran defensive end Victor Abiamiri is still on the Physically Unable to Perform list after undergoing microfracture knee surgery in the offseason. The Eagles have until Week 9 to decide whether to active Abiamiri or put him on season-ending injured reserve.
What Lies Ahead: Expect Parker and Graham to continue rotating at left defensive end. Parker's production has slowed in the second half of the season in the past, so the hope is that the rotation will keep both Parker and the rookie fresh down the stretch. Cole will continue to be his reliable self on the right side, while he's occasionally spelled by Tapp. Don't be surprised if Te'o-Nesheim's role as a situational rusher increases moving forward. The decision on Abiamiri should come soon, and he's free to practice now. But barring injury along the defensive line, it's hard to see a spot for Abiamiri at the moment.
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 3:00 p.m., October 29