1. How will the wide-nine technique affect the defensive ends?
Jim Washburn typically lines up his defensive ends outside of the opposing offensive line. Why? This allows the players to utilize what is most likely their greatest asset - speed - in getting to the quarterback. It also benefits the ends because they don't have to use energy applying as many pass rush moves to get by the offensive tackle. The Eagles have always utilized more athletic defensive ends, so this move was designed to benefit them. The Eagles believe that they have a lot of talent at the defensive end position and now with a top-flight coach that potential should turn into results on the field. The Eagles experimented with the wide nine towards the end of last season. Now, the Eagles have the guru of the scheme as their teacher. As for the run game, Washburn's defenses in Tennessee were among the best in rushing defense despite the ends lining up so wide.
2. Should the Eagles give Trent Cole more rest?
Wait? The Eagles are going to play more to Cole's strength, so why would they consider this? Washburn has been known for rotating his defensive linemen. Washburn wants his ends to go all-out on every snap. This is something the Eagles always want to do but injuries and Cole's outstanding play have typically kept this from happening. In a recent interview, even new defensive coordinator Juan Castillo hinted at giving the two-time Pro Bowl end more rest. Think about it this way. If Cole rests for even five more snaps a game than normal, that would result in 80 fewer snaps in the regular season which is about 1.5 games. Wow. The Eagles want Cole to be at optimum performance for the playoffs. And it's not a slight to Cole, who is someone that Washburn reveres. Washburn used to show players in Tennessee game tape of Cole because that's how he wanted his guys to play.
3. Who will emerge among Te'o, Tapp and Sapp?
Last year's top draft pick Brandon Graham is most likely not going to be ready for the start of the regular season. Defensive end Juqua Parker has kept himself in great shape over the years and continues to be a steady contributor despite being the oldest non-specialist on the roster. When asked earlier this offseason whether the depth at defensive end was a concern, head coach Andy Reid pointed to Te'o, Tapp and Sapp - meaning Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, Darryl Tapp and Ricky Sapp. All three players were first-year Eagles in 2010 and Te'o-Nesheim and Sapp were rookies. Sapp spent the season on injured reserve as a result of a lingering college knee injury. Te'o-Nesheim was limited in what he did on the field, but after the season it was revealed that there were injuries he fought through all season long. All three players should benefit from the scheme change and having an excellent teacher. Tapp played for Washburn at his Senior Bowl following his career at Virginia Tech and raved about the coach. If the Eagles can get increased contributions from these players, it will alleviate any depth concerns at the position.