Cole's playmaking ability; Burress' future
Trent Cole is the Eagles' best defensive lineman, but where does he rank league-wide?
Football Outsiders keeps a stat called defeats that counts how many times a defensive player does one of the following three things: causes a turnover, causes a loss of yardage, stops a conversion on third or fourth down.
In many ways, it's a playmaker metric, not really overall level of play.
Cole ranked tied for 18th in the league last season with 26 defeats. There were only two defensive linemen who had more than Cole. The Giants' Justin Tuck had 33 defeats, and Detroit's Ndamukong Suh had 29. Some other pass-rushers like DeMarcus Ware and Cameron Wake were counted as linebackers, but also rank ahead of Cole.
No other Eagles player made the list of players who had at least 25 defeats, but former Birds linebacker Wll Witherspoon was on there with 26.
Aside from Cole and Asante Samuel, the Eagles don't have any proven playmakers on defense. Defensive tackle Antonio Dixon could develop into one if he builds on his 2010 season, and Nate Allen showed glimpses too. At linebacker, the Eagles desperately need someone to emerge as a playmaker.
As for Cole, he came under some criticism for wearing down towards the end of last season. As I examined back in January, the criticism was a fair one as Cole managed just one sack and five hurries in his final four games. But overall, he turned in another good season.
NOT BUYING THE BURRESS RUMOR
You'll likely see this Plaxico Burress rumor somewhere today, so I thought I'd at least mention it.
Gary Myers of the New York Daily News writes that he's "heard" the Eagles will "eventually be first in line" for Burress' services once he's released from prison on June 6:
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and coach Andy Reid, having already been through the post-prison experience with Vick, might be in a better position to handle any public backlash about adding another former inmate. They could also help Burress with his transition back to the NFL. Putting Burress with DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin would give Vick plenty of options.
While I'll never rule anything out with the Eagles, I have a tough time seeing Burress as a good fit.
They are obviously set with their top two receivers for the next few years, assuming DeSean Jackson agrees to a new deal. Jeremy Maclin is signed through 2013.
Jason Avant has proven to be a very good slot guy and is under contract through 2014.
Could the Eagles benefit from having a big receiver? Sure. But I think they want Riley Cooper to emerge as that guy. Cooper will likely never be the receiver Burress was in his prime, but Burress won't be in his prime when he returns to the field. He turns 34 in August, and I just can't see him having much of a role with the Eagles.
I know some will make the argument that the Birds need a big target in the red zone, but remember, Maclin had seven red-zone scores last season and looked more than capable of getting open in tight space.