Eagles – Defensive Ends May Be Weakness

24 08 2008

by Michael DeLuca

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson loves to send his linebackers and defensive backs after the quarterback in a myriad of exotic blitzing schemes.  The success of these blitzing packages, however, has always been dependant on the talent and depth up front with the Eagles defensive line rotation.  In 2004, for example, the Eagles had Jevon Kearse, Hugh Douglas, Derrick Burgess, and N.D. Kalu wreaking havoc up front and striking fear into the hearts of opposing quarterbacks.  With the attention that had to be paid to blocking these pass rushing specialists up front, the linebackers and defensive backs were able to roam free when called on to attack the pigskin chucker.

While the defensive tackle position looks solid for the 2008-2009 season with Broderick Bunkley and Mike Patterson manning the middle, the Eagles may, for the first time in years, suffer from a lack of depth and talent when if comes to their defensive ends.  Trent Cole started all 16 games in 2007 and had 12.5 sacks along with 70 tackles and four forced fumbles.  He’s a stellar player, among the elite in the NFL, but take a look on the opposite side and The Birds have not even yet decided who the starting left end will be.

Victor Abiamiri was expected to challenge Juqua Parker for the starting job at left defensive end, but Abiamiri broke his right wrist quickly after the start of training camp.  Parker, formerly Thomas, was an undrafted free agent who served a backup role for the Tennessee Titans from 2001 through 2004.  He was signed by the Eagles in 2005 and has played admirably, but is solid at best, certainly not spectacular.  The only offseason addition the Eagles made to the rotation was Chris Clemons, formerly of the Oakland Raiders.  Clemons was expected to rocket up the depth chart after receiving a $4 million dollar signing bonus.  Thus far, his only noteworthy activity was being rushed by ambulance to the hospital as a result of dehydration.  He has since been hampered with a calf injury, failing to impress the coaches otherwise.  The situation has become so desperate that the Eagles are switching 31 year old Darren Howard to left end.  Howard’s play has been uninspiring since joining the Eagles two seasons ago.

The only bright spot of this crew may be Jerome McDougle, a sixth year player and former first round pick.  McDougle was originally thought to be a long-shot to make the final roster, but the staff has been impressed with his training camp work ethic as well as his performance in the first two pre-season games.  He owns one of the Eagles two sacks thus far in the preseason and has been getting a good push against opposing offensive lineman.  “I just want to stay focused on staying on the field,” said McDougle, who missed the entire 2005 with one of the more bizarre injuries in the history of sports.  McDougle was shot in the stomach during a robbery attempt.  “That’s been the biggest thing in my whole career – the injuries.  “As long as I stay on the field and play up to my potential, everything else is going to fall into place. I’m not there yet. I just want to keep improving.”  And if the Eagles hope to experience success this year, in what is easily the toughest division in the NFL, it may hinge on McDougle’s continued improvement.

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One response

20 08 2008
Michael Gill

Geoff Mosher, the Eagles beat writer told me that he asked Darren Howard about playing LE or RE, what the difference is, he said “its like asking a right-handed hitter to try to play hitting left-handed.”

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