Playing on the defensive line for Jim Washburn required an understanding of the controversial coach who was loyal to his players and often effective in developing their pass-rushing skills.

Washburn could be abrasive, and his style has come under criticism since the Eagles fired him on Monday, but respect remains.

"If you're one of the guys on the D-line, we know how he is," defensive end Trent Cole said Tuesday. "So we're used to that. We're used to . . . I don't know what you call it. But we had that [close] relationship. That's our mentality in the room."

Cole publicly lauded Washburn and declined to address any negatives the day after his firing.

"He's a very, very, very passionate coach. You better quote that because he is," Cole said. "He's a smart coach."

Cole also said, "I love the man to death."

Cole spoke after a Play 60 event at Hallowell Elementary School in Horsham. He joined linebacker DeMeco Ryans and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to promote fitness and present a $10,000 check on behalf of the Eagles and the NFL.

When Cole returns to practice on Wednesday, he'll have a new defensive line coach with a different philosophy. The Eagles rehired former line coach Tommy Brasher, who coached Cole when the end arrived in the NFL in 2005. They will shift from the wide nine to a more traditional defensive front.

A change could be positive for a defensive line that has struggled all season - and especially for Cole. The Eagles rewarded Cole with a contract extension through 2017 that could be worth as much as $53 million. He was a model of consistency before this season, recording at least eight sacks every year since 2006. He has only two sacks this season.

"It's been rough," Cole said. "You go back to other games [before Sunday's game], you're talking about something I've never seen in eight years in the league. You're talking about shifts, double teams. You see it almost every play. Guys cracking back on us. That's called respect."

Cole played 68 percent of the snaps Sunday night against the Cowboys, so the Eagles did not de-emphasize his role after releasing Jason Babin. The team wants to see more of Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry, but Cole's history as an effective run stopper and disruptive pass rusher makes him a likely candidate to stay in Philadelphia.

Cole's pass-rushing skills were honed under Brasher. "I thought I was a pass-rusher when I came into the league, but he made me into a disciplined pass-rusher," Cole said of Brasher. "I think the guys will benefit from anything."

This has been a whirlwind two weeks for Cole, who was a close friend of Babin's and was hosting Babin at his home when Babin learned of his release. He saw his fellow starter and his line coach both dismissed within a week, and now the 30-year-old must adjust.

Considering Cole's history playing in a traditional front and the money the Eagles have invested in him, the franchise needs him to produce.

"I'm sorry things had to be like it is," Cole said. "But the Eagles had a plan. They wanted to go another route. And as players, we're behind whatever they want to do."