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Washburn Excited About D Line

He isn't going to snow you. Washburn is all substance and who gives a darn if you don't like his style. He isn't here to evaluate himself as a coach, or to categorize his players, or to pass judgment on any of his young Eagles linemen until he sees them with the pads on in the heat of the game.

Ask him about his expectations for the defensive line to lead the league in quarterback sacks and he says, "I don't even think about all that stuff. We just try to hit the quarterback every time we can hit him. Somebody goes, 'Hey Wash, you think we're supposed to hit the quarterback on every play.' I went, 'Don't you?' We try to. That's sorta the purpose, isn't it?"

Well, yeah, it is. Washburn is a football coach, and that's the highest compliment to pay a man who lives it and breathes it and loves every minute of it. He has a wealth of talent with which to work on this team and Washburn is every bit as high on his prospects and are the fans. The Eagles are loaded up front, having added to an already-strong group in the draft by adding top picks Fletcher Cox and Vinny Curry in the draft and welcoming back 2010 first-round draft pick Brandon Graham.

On Graham, Washburn sees a different person and a different player than the one who limped through 2011 recovering from his knee injury.

"Totally different guy. I liked Brandon Graham coming out. I thought he was a really good player. The guy we got last year was a guy whose confidence was shattered. He was coming off a pretty serious injury. He looks a whole lot different now.

"I think it's physical and mental. He's 20 pounds lighter. He's not the tallest, longest guy ... he's lost weight, he looks better. Every time I hear something in the weight room, it's 'Brandon Graham, Brandon Graham is doing this. ... I can tell this, though: He's about 10 times ahead of where he was last year."

Cox and Curry have, says Washburn, picked up his teachings as fast as any rookies he's coached. They are "sudden" and "quick," and, in the words of the coach, 'quick-twitched-up" players. Washburn wants his players to rush the quarterback and play the run on every snap, to get up the field and make plays behind the line of scrimmage.

Beyond the starting defensive ends, Trent Cole and Jason Babin, Washburn doesn't know who is going to work into the rotation. He loves 'em all. He thinks he can make 'em all players. Washburn's track record from his years in Tennessee speaks volumes: The defensive line is going to be powerful this year and there's just no getting around that.

The Eagles have always valued the line with the investments they've made in the draft and in free agency. Hiring Washburn after his contract expired in Tennessee may have been the most valuable addition of them all. He is a no-nonsense coach who bristles -- that may be slightly too strong a word -- when the topic of the "Wide 9" defensive front is introduced. All of this commotion over the Wide 9 ... where did it come from? Never in his career had Washburn seen so much chit-chat about something that so many teams employ.

"I never heard of the Wide 9 in my life," said Washburn. "I hear of the 'over' defense with a '9' technique. We play a 4-3 defense and we've moved a defensive end to the tight end side and moved him over about 3 feet. That's all it is. It presents some different challenges, but ... the New York Giants played 32 snaps of '9' technique out of 61 plays in the NFC Championship Game."

In the big picture, Washburn is sitting pretty with his line. The Eagles' defensive line registered the most sacks in the NFL last season despite, at times, not playing the way Washburn wanted, needed, demanded. They didn't have time to learn the Washburn Way, so they just kind of flew up the field and good things happened.

Midway through the Organized Team Activities, Washburn has had time to walk through technique day after day with his young linemen and see them soak up the wisdom. Washburn has never, he says, had as deep a group from end to end.

He plays no favorites here. The best players earn the snaps. Between now and then, there is a whole lot of teaching ahead.

"This is a good group. Make no mistake. We've got good people and good talent, we really do. They're good," said Washburn. "We've got a chance to be real good if we keep working."

Washburn has no aspirations to be a defensive coordinator or a head coach. He is what he is, and that is the best defensive coach in the NFL. The guy is as happy as they come working with his young linemen and molding them into responsible young men and fine football players.

He wants to sit and coach and teach and tell stories and coach and win football games and hang out with his wife and live his life.

"I want to coach the best defensive line in the league," said Washburn. "I came here because they're going to give you tools here. Some places, they don't. Some places they don't have a contingency plan if somebody gets hurt. Here, they're going to get you players.  That's all a lifetime position coach like me can ask for."

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