There's something about Trent Cole. You can see it in his eyes, which are an intriguing mix of olive green and chestnut brown and almost seem to spin when he's excited, which is to say, all the time.

He's unpredictable, a little wild, and fearless - the perfect combination, his teammates say, for a pass-rushing defensive end.

"Reckless," Omar Gaither said.

"A caveman," Jevon Kearse said.

With Osi Umenyiora, Michael Strahan and Justin Tuck leading the way, the New York Giants are the NFL's most efficient, aggressive and dangerous pass-rushing team. They lead the league with 44 sacks, eight more than their nearest competitor, the Seattle Seahawks.

The Giants harassed Donovan McNabb for 12 sacks in the first meeting with the Eagles - the teams will square off again Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field - and twice this season have had six sacks in a game, most recently last week against Chicago.

While New York is getting a rush of attention for how it gets after quarterbacks, Cole is getting his share of attention from opposing offenses. It used to be that the 25-year-old Eagle had to beat just one man to get to the quarterback. Now, having emerged as a full-time starter on the right side ahead of veteran Darren Howard, he already has a career high of 91/2 sacks this season and gets double- and sometimes triple-teamed at the line.

When he recently saw an opposing guard help block him, Cole knew he'd arrived.

"I've seen everything," the third-year end out of Cincinnati said this week. "I guess it's a sign of respect. It's flattering."

The increased attention has forced the 6-foot-3, 270-pound Cole to alter his strategy. He has developed a Dwight Freeney-style spin move and strengthened his approach to going over, around or through opponents to get into the backfield.

On the strength of a ridiculous six-sack performance against the Eagles on Sept. 30, Umenyiora is tied for second in the league with 11 sacks this season. Cole is tied for seventh with Green Bay's Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, San Diego's Shawne Merriman, and New England's Mike Vrabel. Strahan and Tuck each have nine sacks this season. It's not bad company for Cole.

Ever since Cole arrived as a rookie in 2005, coaches and teammates have marveled at what they call Cole's motor. It doesn't stop. From the first snap to the last, his play is fast and furious.

Perhaps his pace is due, in part, to his love of hunting. Or perhaps the man who likes to barehand catfish is just a little nuts, unaware as yet of his mortality.

Or perhaps Cole is simply trying to prove to the 31 other NFL teams that passed on him again and again on draft weekend that they made a critical mistake.

A native of Xenia, Ohio, Cole originally had a scholarship offer from Ohio State, then lost it when the Buckeyes switched coaches. After considering abandoning his dream of playing collegiate football, Cole went to Cincinnati and played nose tackle as a freshman before moving to defensive end.

Like Tom Brady and other players who slipped into the second day of the draft and have proven to be elite contributors, Cole said he thinks "every day" about how he wasn't drafted until the Eagles picked him in the fifth round.

"I'm here," he said, standing in front of his locker with his arms spread wide. "Look at me. I'm here. I made it. I'm not going anywhere."

In the Eagles' locker room, Cole is sandwiched between Howard and Kearse, veterans who have slipped from starters to occasional contributors. It could be a tough position for Cole, but he said Howard and Kearse had been helpful and encouraging even as he was taking away snaps from them.

Kearse realizes he likely will be out the door after this, his fourth season in Philadelphia. But he had nothing but positive things to say about his protege, who as a high schooler was known as "the Freak."

"He's a heck of a player," the 31-year-old Kearse said. "He does everything the coach wants him to do and more. I personally think he's trying to kill himself out there, but he just loves the game like that. He goes, goes, goes until he can't go anymore."

And in Kearse's opinion, Cole hasn't reached his potential just yet.

"He can be as good as he wants to be," Kearse said. "It's just a matter of him knowing what to do and when to do it."

Even with four games still to play, Cole's total for sacks is the team's highest since Hugh Douglas had 121/2 in 2002. He got half a sack against Seattle, forced a fumble and recovered another, which led to a touchdown. His 31/2 sacks of Detroit's Jon Kitna earlier this season were a career high, and his two against Minnesota - he got to Kelly Holcomb, then Brooks Bollinger - earned him NFC defensive player of the week honors.

"If we had a couple more Trents, that could be good for our team," Kearse said.

A win would help. Cole is prepared to do whatever it takes.

"We'll take anything," Cole said. "Anything for a win. It doesn't matter. It could be a bad call, if we won the game, that's it. ... We've had a few close games. We've shown people the kind of team we have. We just have to fix a couple things and we'll be all right."

Contact columnist Ashley Fox

at 215-854-5064

or afox@phillynews.com.