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Thursday, September 22, 2011
Scouts Inc.: Eagles' D-line is top 5

By Dan Graziano
ESPN.com

Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. has an Insider post up in which he ranks the top five defensive lines in the NFL. The only one on the list from the NFC East is that of the Philadelphia Eagles. Detroit, Baltimore, Chicago and New England claimed the first four spots. Matt says he nearly gave the No. 5 spot to the New York Giants but gave it to the Eagles because of what they've done to augment their pass rush:
Philadelphia's run defense and power at the point of attack is a drawback, but its ability to rush the passer is out of this world. The Eagles rarely have to blitz. Adding Cullen Jenkins and Jason Babin really has taken this group to new heights. The stalwart here, though, is Trent Cole, who -- in case you didn't know -- might just be the best 4-3 defensive end in the entire league.

Cole is off to a brilliant start to the year, as we've seen and discussed here, but the key to this ranking is the depth the Eagles have at the end and tackle positions on the defensive line. As Matt points out, Darryl Tapp and Juqua Parker are strong backups for Jenkins and Babin, and it's not out of the question to think that Brandon Graham could come back at some point this year.
But the player that I am especially high on is Antonio Dixon, although he probably fit the Eagles' former scheme better than the one Jim Washburn brought from the Tennessee Titans that stresses penetration and getting upfield. The depth here is superb across the board, and the Eagles can simply wear out their opponent. They play the run on the way into the backfield. My concern with the Eagles is that they are not young on the D-line, so their window might not stay open as long as the other teams on this list.

For now, though, I agree with Matt that the Eagles' defensive line gets the edge, if ever so slightly, over Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and the Giants' excellent bunch. We'll get to see them both Sunday afternoon in Philly.