NFC East: Matt Light

A couple of Saturday links

January, 28, 2012
The New England Patriots play a 3-4 defense. Except when they play a 4-3. Vince Wilfork is a nose tackle. Except when he's playing defensive end. The Patriots' defense is an amoeba, and designed to be deceptive and confusing to opposing offenses. Ashley Fox took a look at what the New York Giants can expect to see from "that mad scientist in New England" in the Super Bowl a week from Sunday, and the ways in which the Giants are preparing for it.

Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora says he's only ever had two fights on the football field, and they've both been with Patriots tackle Matt Light. Umenyiora said he expects to "rekindle" things in the Super Bowl with Light, who "really gets under his skin." According to Mike Garafolo, Umenyiora joked that Light is more important to the Patriots than Umenyiora is to the Giants, "so if we both fight, we'll both get kicked out and JPP and Tuck will have a field day out there." Strategy!

Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan was asked on the radio about the idea of bringing Peyton Manning to the Redskins. Since Manning plays for another team, Shanahan's not really supposed to talk about whether the Redskins would pursue him. But he spoke in general terms about the idea of whether Manning would be appealing if he were to become available (which he almost certainly will). Kyle didn't exactly throw cold water on the idea, saying the only question he'd have would be health, and that "if the doctors say he's healthy, and he says he's healthy, then that's enough for me."

Paul Domowitch spoke to Philadelphia Eagles president Joe Banner about the upcoming free-agent class. I'm sure the words "Eagles" and "free agency" are still sending chills down the spines of the fans who remember how exciting last year's Eagles free-agent period went.

How about the Dallas Cowboys for Manning, huh? Apparently, this has been raised on the radio in Dallas, where I guess NBA basketball isn't enough to keep them busy this time of year and they have to think up crazy ideas like trading their best offensive player because the defense collapsed and gave away the season. Anyway, Todd Archer shoots it down, as he should.
Nearly done now with our position-by-position look at potential four-year unrestricted free agency and the NFC East. I asked yesterday if you guys wanted me to do kickers and punters, and you seemed to say yes, so those will roll out this afternoon to wrap the series. For now, though, we go with the big fellas -- the offensive tackles.

NFC East teams in need

Redskins: With 2010 first-rounder Trent Williams on the left side, they feel like they're okay there now and for the long-term. Not so much on the right side, where Jammal Brown is a free agent and Stephon Heyer not likely a sufficient replacement. A veteran who could help develop Williams and the other young players on Washington's rebuilding line might be a good move.

Cowboys: They drafted Tyron Smith with the ninth pick in April, and their hope was to play him on the right side and emerging star Doug Free on the left. But if the new rules allow free agency after four years of service, Free becomes a free agent and a top priority for Dallas to re-sign. Should he go elsewhere, the Cowboys will need a tackle, be it right or left, since they're likely to part ways with Marc Colombo.

Eagles: Jason Peters is a star on the left, but Michael Vick's "blind side" is the right side, where Winston Justice and King Dunlap remain big question marks. Having addressed the line in the draft, the Eagles could be planning to roll the dice with those guys and fill defensive needs in free agency, but it wouldn't be crazy for them to look for a tackle.

Giants: This is a well-traveled topic and a matter of opinion. Mine is that the Giants' offensive line is a ticking injury time bomb, and that David Diehl has lost a few steps. The Giants and their fans would say the injuries on the line didn't hurt them last year, and that they actually showed the depth the team has at various line positions. I still think it's worth staying ahead of the curve, and while I know the Giants have a lot of needs, I think they need to at least look and see if they can add a tackle for depth, even if it means moving Diehl inside or into a backup role.

Top five potential unrestricted free-agent tackles

1. Free. Still young and still developing, but his first year as a starter on the left side was a rousing success, and the Cowboys are hoping he can last there for a while -- as long as he stays in town. It'll be interesting to see what kind of market he draws, since it was just the one year on the left and he'd surely prefer to stay on that side than go somewhere else and play on the right. He might be more valuable to the Cowboys than he would to anyone else.

2. Willie Colon. He missed the 2010 season with an injury, but his track record as a premier right tackle won't be lost on teams that need line help. His agent recently said he didn't think the Steelers were interested in retaining Colon.

3. Tyson Clabo. A perfect fit at right tackle for the Falcons, Clabo is coming off a Pro Bowl appearance and could draw interest from run-heavy teams looking for someone to seal off that right side.

4. Matt Light. A great veteran who may be past his prime but likely still has something to offer on the field and in the locker room. Might have to settle for a shorter-term deal, given his age relative to the rest of this field.

5. Brown. The Redskins' best plan may be to bring back Brown, who performed better at right tackle for them as the season went along and his hip got healthier. It'll be interesting to see if he draws interest as a left tackle from teams in need of help on that side.

Predictions that mean nothing: Cowboys re-sign Free. Redskins re-sign Brown. Eagles look a little further down the list, maybe at a guy like Marshal Yanda, who can play tackle or guard and really shore up their situation on the right side. Giants do nothing.

Cole has Manning, whitetail deer in his sights

November, 6, 2008
Posted by's Matt Mosley

Eagles defensive end Trent Cole has been hunting whitetail deer since he was in fourth grade. But he waited until junior high to start hunting quarterbacks.

He's been flying under the national radar since entering the league as a fifth-round pick out of Cincinnati in 2005. But opposing offensive tackles and tight ends don't need an introduction.

  Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
  Eagles defensive end Trent Cole hunts quarterbacks on the field – and deer off the field.

Cole briefly lost his starting job in 2006 to the pricey Darren Howard, but that didn't last long. When the equally overrated Jevon Kearse went down with an injury, Cole replaced him in the lineup for good. And on Dec. 17 of that season, the former high school running back stepped in front of an Eli Manning pass and returned it 19 yards for a touchdown.

The play happened in the Meadowlands, and Cole's reputation began to grow around the league. When we talked via phone Thursday morning, he admitted that he still draws inspiration from that interception in the Meadowlands.

"Yeah, that was pretty nice," said the soft-spoken Cole. "It was a great feeling and it's something that gave me a lot of confidence."

When he arrived in Cincinnati, Cole was 6-foot-3, 230 pounds. He started out as a nose tackle in 2002, and he recalls giving up 100 pounds to players from Ohio State and West Virginia.

"They would look at me, look at each other and just start laughing," he said. "Then I'd wear them out all afternoon. They kept asking me to slow down for a couple of plays."

Cole's coming off a breakout season in which he finished with 12.5 sacks and replaced Seahawks defensive end Patrick Kerney in the Pro Bowl. He said it was an exciting moment, but he wasn't happy about his "alternate" status. This season, Cole is commanding a lot more attention, and he's been held to three sacks. But instead of pressing, he continues to work on his all-around game. He led all NFC defensive ends in tackles last season with 103 and has 49 tackles through eight games in 2008.

"That's something I take a lot of pride in," he said. "Teams don't run to my side out of respect. I never wanted to be looked at as a specialist."

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