This is the next installment in our series of 12 positions in 12 days previewing the upcoming Eagles training camp. Rookie and selected vets report to Lehigh July 26th and each day leading up to that date we will bring you a preview of a different position battle.
Here we are on our 9th position preview and we've finally got ourselves a starting job that is truly up for grabs. While the right defensive end spot is locked down, the left defensive end spot should be an entertaining battle at Lehigh.
At this point, I think we can say that Cole is the only guy who can be safely assumed as a starter. While Juqua Parker has started at left end for a couple of years now, young guys like Victor Abiamiri and Bryan Smith will be making serious pushes for playing time. In fact, I think if you ask Eagles management who they'd like to see win the starting LDE job... they'd tell you it was Abiamiri.
Back to Trent Cole... The Hunter has been a model of consistency over the past 3 years averaging just about 10 sacks per season and playing nearly every defensive snap over that time. He's also developed into nearly as good a run stopper as he is as a pass rusher. That 2 way DE is becoming more and more of a rare breed in the NFL with so many teams playing the 3-4 or employing smaller/faster pass rush specialists. Cole is certainly one of a handful of guys in the NFL that excels at both.
What to watch for
The big thing to watch at this camp will be the battle for the starting left defensive end job. While Chris Clemons & 2nd year man Bryan Smith will be in the mix, the battle should really come down to incumbent starter Juqua Parker and 3rd year man Victor Abiamiri. The start of VA's career was plauged by various injuries, most recently his wrist which kept him out of the first half of last season. When he did get the chance to play however, he was pretty impressive playing both inside and out and displaying power and a knack for getting into the backfield. At 6'4 and around 270 Abiamiri has the size to be a run stopper while still having the speed to get to the QB. Plus, with speedy pass rush specialists like Clemons and Smith backing him up, VA has the ability to move inside on passing downs and rush from the inside.
Parker has been a solid and relatively productive member of the Eagles for several years now. The concern with him is that he seems to wear down as the season goes on, which would lead us to believe he might be better served as a backup where he doesn't play as many snaps. Last year 4.5 of his 5 sacks came in the first half of the year. 2007 was the same story with all 5 of his sacks coming in the first 8 games he played.
The table is certainly set for Abiamiri to make that LDE spot his own, will he finally be healty enough to do it?
Some other quick things to watch. The development of second year man Bryan Smith, who finished last preseason with a very impressive game against the Jets but rarely made the active roster during the season. Also Chris Clemons, who after he got healthy last year actually became one of the team's best defensive playmakers down the stretch.
Previous position previews