Eagles adding injuries to insult

King Dunlap will take over at left tackle for injured Jason Peters Sunday at Buffalo.
King Dunlap will take over at left tackle for injured Jason Peters Sunday at Buffalo. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Posted: October 04, 2011

THE CLIMB from 1-3 now might be insurmountable.

The Eagles, having blown leads in their last three games and reeling at the quarter pole, will be without their two best players for the foreseeable future. Defensive end Trent Cole and left tackle Jason Peters each could miss a month.

They also lost reserve defensive tackle Antonio Dixon for the season.

King Dunlap will replace Peters. Cole, who plays on the right side, will be replaced by committee, though the d-line now officially is decimated.

To replace Dixon, the Eagles signed defensive tackle Derek Landri, 28, according to a source close to the situation. He played well for them in training camp and made it to the final cut. Landri, who is 6-2, 290, has played five seasons. He started 16 games last season for Carolina.

Considering the Eagles will be without their offensive and defensive cornerstones for a considerable time, Landri's arrival might not matter.

"I expect other guys to step up when somebody goes down," said coach Andy Reid.

Those are great expectations; perhaps unrealistic expectations.

Cole suffered a torn right calf muscle in the fourth quarter of Sunday's collapse against the 49ers. Cole missed the last two Niners drives, when they gutted the Eagles for a touchdown then ran out the clock. He was on crutches after the game.

Cole has three sacks and has been to two of the last three Pro Bowls. The Eagles have configured their pass-rush defense around his talents. Since the start of the 2007 season, Cole has 47 sacks in 67 starts.

On the other side of the ball, Peters suffered a badly strained left hamstring on the Eagles' last offensive play. Peters has been to the last four Pro Bowls, the last two as an Eagle after joining the team via trade in 2009.

Dunlap is a fourth-year player who was forced into a starting role five times last year due to injuries along the line, twice at left tackle. He failed to win the right tackle job in training camp this season, which forced Todd Herremans to move from left guard.

Dunlap, who is 6-9, 330, said he has improved since new line coach Howard Mudd (who prefers more mobile linemen) demoted him.

"I struggled with it a little bit in training camp," Dunlap said of Mudd's unique technique demands. "Now, 4 or 5 weeks into the season, I've got it down."

Dunlap spoke as he left the team's facility. He had done extra film work, and he was the last lineman to leave.

That extra work might not matter. The defense might never get off the field.

That's because the Birds also lost Dixon to a left triceps tear that will require surgery. Dixon, at 6-3 and 322 pounds, is the largest lineman on the team. He had been a serviceable run-stopper.

The Eagles rank 30th out of 32 teams against the run. The Niners scored their last two touchdowns with Dixon out of the game.

The past 2 weeks the Eagles have played without ends Juqua Parker (ankle) and Darryl Tapp (pectoral strain). Both played large roles in the rotation along the defensive line. Both watched as the Birds folded defensively the past 3 weeks.

The Falcons began their comeback from 10 points down after Parker was injured on the second play of the fourth quarter. Tapp missed that game.

Without them, the Eagles have been outscored, 36-0, in the last three fourth quarters. And, now, no Cole or Dixon.

"We've got to step it up," said defensive tackle Trevor Laws. "It's a football season. People get hurt. It's not the first time. It's not going to be the last time. We are blessed with that depth."

Parker remains unlikely to play effectively in the near future, but Tapp said Sunday that he expects to play in Buffalo. Tapp likely will be paired with Laws, the enigmatic second-round pick in 2008 who has managed just one start in 46 career games.

"I'm ready to go, baby," Laws said. "I should be making plays in this league. I'm happy for the extra reps."

Free-agent gem Cullen Jenkins, who has been playing defensive tackle, occasionally could find himself at end, too.

Juan more time

Andy Reid again endorsed embattled defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, who moved from accomplished offensive line coach this year.

"I think Juan's doing some good things. It's not one person," Reid said.

Castillo's job responsibilities will not change.

Neither will any other coach's, Reid said.

Red-zone fever

The Eagles scored two touchdowns in their seven trips inside the Niners' 20.

Andy Reid said that when the Eagles looked to pass, the Niners played soft coverage, so the Eagles were forced to throw shorter routes near the goal line.

"Most of our routes are looking toward the end zone," Reid said. "Normally, it's touchdown to check-down."

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