Cole, Graham making things tough on QBs

The Eagles' Trent Cole sacks Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer, who was dropped five times in the Birds' 24-21 victory.
The Eagles' Trent Cole sacks Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer, who was dropped five times in the Birds' 24-21 victory. (RON CORTES / Staff Photographer)
Posted: December 03, 2013

Trent Cole and Brandon Graham say they are getting more comfortable with defensive coordinator Bill Davis' 3-4 alignment, as their relentless pash rush showed during Sunday's 24-21 win over the Arizona Cardinals at Lincoln Financial Field.

For the second consecutive week Cole had two sacks, while Graham also added two sacks after entering the game with one.

"We were both feeding off each other, and when Trent got that first one I said I have to get one," Graham said.

That first one set the tone for the defense.

On Arizona's first series of the game, Cole had a strip-sack of quarterback Carson Palmer, causing a fumble that teammate Bennie Logan recovered.

"Bill [Davis] always preaches go for the throwing arm," Cole said.

So that is what Cole did.

"When he is throwing, you get your hands up and make it hard and try to get in front of the ball," Cole said.

Logan recovered the fumble on the Arizona 25-yard line, and the Eagles scored the game's first touchdown four plays later.

Cole, whose five sacks this year have come in the last four games, also moved into a second-place tie with Clyde Simmons on the Eagles all-time sack list. Both have 76. Reggie White, with 124, owns the team record.

"It's very special," Cole said about being in elite sack company.

Cole has had a simple philosophy.

During "my time here playing for Eagles, I will leave a legacy and keep playing hard, and we will keep winning games."

Cole and Graham have not had an easy adjustment moving from defensive ends in the Eagles' old 4-3 defense to outside linebackers in Davis' 3-4 alignment.

Now in his ninth season, Cole admits that moving positions was an adjustment.

"I have been playing eight years as defensive end and this is my ninth year, as an outside linebacker, and it is a big jump to be in coverage," said Cole, who has had multiple sacks in consecutive games three times in his career.

Despite the difficulty, he came in this season with a positive mind-set about accepting the challenge.

"I told myself in the beginning of the year I was going to make it work regardless and was going to play for the Philadelphia Eagles," Cole said.

Besides the different responsibilities in pass coverage, Cole said there is another major difference he noticed in the 3-4.

"The pocket is very different, and the quarterback has different ways to leak out when you are playing a 3-4 as opposed to a 4-3," he said.

Of course, Palmer isn't very mobile, and the Eagles felt if they would get heat on the Arizona quarterback, the sacks would come. Palmer was sacked five times.

"He stands back there and is not a threat to run," Graham said. "We made sure we collapsed the pocket."

Graham, the 2010 first-round draft choice from Michigan, had gone the previous eight games without a sack.

It was his first multi-sack game since recording 2.5 in last year's 34-13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Dec. 13.

Graham said both sacks against the Cardinals came off stunts. Like Cole, Graham said the key has been to keep working hard to learn his new position.

"Every day I am grinding from the bottom," Graham said. "I am always going to have a chip on my shoulder, and today was just one of those days. It was a great day for me, and I am trying to continue to keep on having them."

Eagles' All-Time Sack Leaders

Reggie White 124

Trent Cole 76

Clyde Simmons 76

Hugh Douglas 54.5

Greg Brown 50.5

Andy Harmon 39.5

Seth Joyner 37

William Fuller 35.5

Dennis Harrison 34

William Thomas 33


Defensive Upgrade

The Eagles' defense the last eight games does not resemble the unit from the first four weeks. And that's a good thing for the Birds. Here are some statistical comparisons:

   Weeks 1-4    Weeks 5-13

Punts forced per game   2.8   5.8   

Opp. quarterback rating   107.2   72.5   

Interceptions per game   0.5   1.6   

Completion percentage   70.2   56.6   

TDs allowed per game   4.0    1.9   

SOURCE: Philadelphia Eagles


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