Breaking down the DLs: Philadelphia

April, 19, 2011
4/19/11
1:00
PM ET
Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson examines the defensive lines of each NFC East team. Today: Philadelphia Eagles.

Trent Cole is one of the very best defensive ends in football. He is a tremendous all-around player. But he did wear down as the season progressed. A year ago leading into the draft, the Eagles obviously fell in love with Brandon Graham, trading up quite a ways to land him to complement Cole. I remain very high on Graham, but he did have an up-and-down rookie year and ended the season with a serious knee injury. If the knee comes around quickly, Graham might be the ideal bookend to Cole.

Maybe adding one more end -- a guy with size - makes sense here as insurance for Graham and to help spell Cole. Juqua Parker also is an all-around defensive end who played really well for the Eagles’ in 2010. But he wore down late in the season, too. In fact, Philadelphia recorded just 15 sacks in its final eight games. Darryl Tapp also could figure in as a part-time player, preferably using his pass-rush ability off the edge. Adding one more end could leave restricted free agent Victor Abiamiri as the odd man out.

The Eagles are loaded at defensive tackle. Mike Patterson is built low to the ground and is difficult to move in the run game. He also has some quickness. But Patterson has just four sacks in three seasons and won’t contribute much on passing downs. Brodrick Bunkley has a lot of ability and can contribute well in both phases, but he also could step up his game. Trevor Laws has been a solid contributor since joining the team and could be ready to take the next step forward. But the player who has just demanded playing time is Antonio Dixon. He is an animal versus the run and also has the athletic ability and quickness to develop more as a pass-rushing force. If you don’t yet know about Dixon, it is time you learned.

This line -- Bunkley and Graham in particular -- also should benefit from the addition of new defensive line coach Jim Washburn, who comes over from Tennessee. But Philadelphia is already stacked up front, and I was tempted to rank them ahead of the Giants.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.

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