In 2009, Jason Babin had 2.5 sacks in 12 games with the Eagles. Then, as we all know, he thrived the following season in Washburn's 9-formation and accrued 12.5 sacks. So he seemed to have found his fit: rushing the QB/ball fast and hard off the far edge. Then, in coming back to the Eagles (with Washburn) in 2011, he accrued 18 sacks, another big jump.
Meanwhile, off the other edge in 2011, Trent Cole racked up 11 sacks, albeit while missing 3 games due to an injury. Had he played in all 16 games, he almost certainly would have matched or exceeded the 12.5 sacks Babin had a year earlier (especially when considering that in 2011 Cole never went two consecutive games without recording a sack).
Babin's leap from 12.5 sacks in 2010 to 18.0 sacks in 2011 certainly is partially due to the fact that he had Trent Cole (and other talented pass rushers) in the rotation with him. After all, it's hard to double-team Babin when you have Cole coming off the other edge. But arguably that isn't the only reason for the increase. Many, such as Brandon Graham last year, have discussed the difficulty of picking up Washburn's 9-scheme. It takes some time to adjust to this style of play. And although Babin adjusted well his first season with Washburn, he was ahead of the curve going into the 2011 season.
Now, going into the 2012 season, Cole too will be ahead of the curve, and much more comfortable with Washburn's scheme - and he'll have an off-season as well. So, assuming Cole stays healthy for all 16 games of the regular season, I think it is very likely that we will see a very significant jump in his sack totals. This isn't THAT bold of a claim, especially when considering the new uniforms that will be more difficult to hold onto, and thus, many have stated that the sack count in the league as a whole will increase. If this is true, then it might not be a longshot (although it is a much bolder claim) that Trent Cole could lead the entire league in sacks. The man is already a monster, he'll have a year and an off-season in Washburn's scheme under his belt, and he'll have Babin's veteran 9-formation presence on the other edge (with talented backups in the rotation once again)... given these facts, I predict that if anyone on the Eagles hits 20+ sacks for the 2012 season, it will be Trent Cole.
Also, Cole will face his toughest opponent (Joe Thomas) of the season in week 1, so after that, the only place to go is up (note that, according to this Bleacher Report, 4 of the first 6 LTs Cole faces are in the bottom 12 of the ranking). For fun, I will make a (possibly bold) prediction: Trent Cole will accrue 22.5 sacks in 2012, while playing only roughly 70% of the snaps... especially if Babin starts out strong and starts soaking up those double-teams early in the season.
What do you think?