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NFC East Top 20: No. 4 Trent Cole

9/1/2012

In the final 20 days before the start of the regular season, we are counting down the top 20 players in the NFC East. For a full explanation, see this post.

No. 4 -- Trent Cole, Eagles DE

Quick quiz: Cole entered the league the same year as Justin Tuck. Who has more sacks? The answer is Cole, and it's not even close. Cole has 68 sacks in his seven-year career, which is good for 10th among active players. Tuck has 45.5. Cole's only one behind Tuck's teammate, Osi Umenyiora, who has 69 and began his career two years earlier. He doesn't have the Subway endorsement deal or the two Super Bowl titles, and I'm sure he'd trade all of his sacks for the latter. But those numbers help to illustrate that Cole is a much better player than his rather low national profile tends to indicate.

Cole is the Eagles' do-everything defensive end, kind of like Tuck is for the Giants. While teammate Jason Babin was hanging out with the league sack leaders last year, Cole got his 11, reaching double digits for the third year in a row. He also plays the run very well, shows a variety of ways of getting to the passer from the outside or, when needed, the inside. And because opposing offensive coordinators don't care about headlines or national profiles and know who the scariest player is on the defense, Cole found himself fighting through double-teams more often than his teammate on the other side of the line. His Pro Football Focus grade last year ranked him the No. 1 4-3 defensive end in the entire league, first in the pass rush and 10th against the run.

Cole is a quiet star, but make no mistake about it -- he is a star. In a division loaded with some of the top pass-rushers in the league, he deserves to be ranked here, behind only the very best and ahead of some of his better-known rivals.

Rankings so far:

5. Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, Giants

6. Hakeem Nicks, WR, Giants

7. Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys

8. Justin Tuck, DE, Giants

9. Jason Babin, DE, Eagles

10. Victor Cruz, WR, Giants

11. London Fletcher, LB, Redskins

12. Michael Vick, QB, Eagles

13. Tyron Smith, T, Cowboys

14. Brian Orakpo, LB, Redskins

15. Jason Witten, TE, Cowboys

16. Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys

17. DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles

18. Osi Umenyiora, DE, Giants

19. Evan Mathis, G, Eagles

20. Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Giants