He's finding his place on the offensive line Injuries have given reserve center Nick Cole a chance to start at right guard for the Eagles.

Posted: December 10, 2008

The Eagles' second offensive play Sunday was a run.

Who knows exactly where it was designed to go because it ended before it started with Brian Westbrook thrown for a 5-yard loss by Fred Robbins, the New York Giants' supersize defensive tackle.

Nick Cole, playing in place of the injured Max Jean-Gilles, was to blame for the negative play.

"I took some bad steps, and I took a bad angle," Cole said.

He never got close to Robbins. That might have been the start of a bad day for Cole and the Eagles' offensive line, but the third-year undrafted reserve center turned starting right guard remembered an important rule.

"You have to have a short memory on the offensive line," Cole said. "When you're a little shaky on one play, you have to go on to the next one."

This wasn't Cole's first NFL start, but it was his first complete game. Oddly, Cole had started the Eagles' previous two games against the Giants at left guard because teammate Todd Herremans was being disciplined by coach Andy Reid. Cole was relieved after one series by Herremans in his start last season and after one quarter during his start last month.

With two-time Pro Bowler Shawn Andrews and Jean-Gilles both injured, the Eagles had to go the distance with Plan C - Cole - in this game.

Cole's short memory served him well against Robbins, second-year defensive tackle Jay Alford, and veteran middle linebacker Antonio Pierce. His performance was tantamount to a rookie pitcher providing a quality start against the best-hitting team in baseball.

"That's why he's in there," Eagles tackle Jon Runyan said. "He's capable of doing it. There are little things he's going to have to get used to. The [second] play . . . it's about knowing what step you're going to have to take. It's a little flatter at guard than it is at center. He's going to go back on the film and see a lot of things he'll wish he did better on, but coming out with a win makes all that feel better."

After examining Cole's day, it is the ninth-year veteran Robbins who probably had a difficult time watching the film of Sunday's game. Cole lost that early battle, but he won the war with Robbins, and the Eagles pulled off a 20-14 upset, ending the Giants' seven-game winning streak.

"That was very fun," Cole said. "When you run the ball and get the job done, you pretty much control the game. We controlled the game."

Cole was as responsible as anyone else along the Eagles' offensive line for coach Andy Reid's faith in sticking with the run game, and the little-known lineman out of New Mexico State also was terrific in pass protection. Robbins, whose 5 1/2 sacks rank fourth in the NFL among defensive tackles, never got close to taking down quarterback Donovan McNabb.

Runyan noted last week that it would be a smooth transition for Cole, who is also a center, which means he has to know the assignments of all the offensive linemen.

"It helps you a whole lot," Cole said. "You're more comfortable. Sometimes people go in and they're not sure if they can play because they don't know what they're supposed to do. I know what to do, so I don't have to focus on that part of it. I can just focus on getting the job done and playing."

Some of Cole's best work against the Giants came on the Eagles' first touchdown drive late in the first half. He sealed off Alford on a 9-yard run by Westbrook on the fifth play of the 10-play drive, then four plays later he took out Robbins' legs to create inside running space for tight end L.J. Smith on a screen play that went for 12 yards. Cole sealed off Pierce from getting to Westbrook on the next play, which resulted in a 30-yard touchdown run.

The timing of Cole's first real chance to prove himself in the NFL is good for him. He's making $445,000 in the final season of the three-year deal he signed as an undrafted rookie, and there's value in having a quality reliever along the offensive line.

"All I know is I have to continue to work hard and prove myself," Cole said. "If I can do that, then I can let it ride out and see what happens from there."

Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at 215-854-2577 or bbrookover@phillynews.com.

Time Change

The start time of the Eagles' Dec. 21 game at Washington has been changed from 1 p.m. to 4:15 p.m., and will be televised on Fox.

The change was made because the Carolina Panthers-New York Giants game has been shifted to a night game as part of the NFL's flex-time scheduling policy. The game was moved from 1 p.m. to 8:15 p.m., and will be televised by NBC.

The Giants (11-2) have clinched the NFC East and are one game ahead of the NFC South-leading Panthers (10-3) for best record in the conference. If they were to finish tied, the winner would have the edge by virtue of a head-to-head victory.

-AP

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