Howie Roseman Thinks Trent Cole Can Play in a 3-4 Defense

Howie Roseman Thinks Trent Cole Can Play in a 3-4 Defense

The Eagles will eventually move to a 3-4 or hybrid defensive
alignment under Chip Kelly, you can take that to bank. Whether it happens this
season or in the not-too-distant future remains to be seen though, because
there is some question as to whether the Eagles are ready to make the change
personnel-wise.

No doubt they already have some of the pieces to run the 3-4
effectively, but who is their big space eater at nose tackle? Who can rush the
passer off of the edge but also drop back into coverage? Howie Roseman addressed
these questions
with reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

When it comes to nose tackle, it’s hard to judge whether any
of the Eagles’ interior linemen has that ability to clog up the middle. We
certainly haven’t seen any of the potential candidates commanding constant
double teams or anything.

Then again, we haven’t seen a lot of Antonio Dixon, either.
Roseman thinks he could be a fit.

“I don’t think there’s any question
about it,” Roseman said. “That’s his skill set. He’s a big body, [makes] good
use of his hands, he’s a run stopper – he’s kind of what you’re going to look
for if you’re going to look for a 3-4 nose tackle.”

Dixon is 6’3”, 322 lbs. That’s about what the New England
Patriots list Vince Wilfork at (6-2, 325), and he can probably be considered the
current prototype for the position. Then again, I’m not sure Wilfork doesn’t
weight a lot more than the team is letting on there – he’s a load.

But okay, maybe Dixon is big enough and has the skill set.
After a strong 2010 during which he started 10 games for the Eagles, an injury
cut his following season short, and he fell by the wayside in Jim Washburn’s
wide-9 scheme. The team actually cut him out of training camp, but scooped him
back up once Wash got canned.

It’s a little difficult to envision him as a permanent
solution, but I could see experimenting with it.

What’s much, much harder to swallow was Roseman’s assertion
that Trent Cole could play outside linebacker in a 3-4.

“Trent’s the same way [as Brandon Graham]. Trent can
rush the passer. As you look at 3-4 rush linebackers, Trent has the skill set
that a lot of those guys have.”

Trent could probably create a decent pass rush from the
safety position, at least in his prime. Coming off of a three-sack season, you
have to be concerned about his ability to rush from anywhere in 2013.

We’re willing to give him some benefit of the doubt that he
can bounce back. The problem is rushing the quarterback isn’t that position’s
only job. In order to maintain an air of unpredictability in the 3-4, Cole
would occasionally be expected to drop into coverage – something he has done
poorly in the past.

When Sean McDermott was the Eagles’ defensive coordinator
from 2009-10, Cole dropped back an average of 2.65 times per game. Nobody knew
why, we could all just plainly see it wasn’t working. In ’10, Pro Football
Focus
scored Cole a -1.5 as he dropped into coverage a career-high 43 times.

Now Cole is 30 years old. Coverage is just not an area I see
him improving upon after spending eight seasons in the NFL at defensive end.

Of course, last offseason the Colts faced a similar issue
with what to do about Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis in their transition to
the 3-4. The duo showed both edges of the sword. According to PFF, Freeney only
dropped back two times per game and was fine. Mathis, on the other hand, was in
coverage almost seven times per game, and PFF graded him a -5.5.

The Colts also finished with the 26th ranked defense in the NFL, so there's that too.

>> Roseman: Eagles already have some 3-4 pieces [CSN]

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Cesar Hernandez remains a person of interest as Phillies look to improve

Cesar Hernandez remains a person of interest as Phillies look to improve

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Phillies have completed the signing of veteran reliever Joaquin Benoit to a one-year, $7.5 million contract (see story). The deal could be announced Tuesday and will require the club removing a player from the already-full 40-man roster.

Benoit is one of three additions that the Phils have made to their bullpen this offseason — the club traded for veteran right-hander Pat Neshek and picked up lefty David Rollins on waivers — and more will likely come, probably on minor-league contracts, before the team reports to spring training.

Now that the bullpen has been addressed, let’s take a look at what could be next for the Phillies this winter.

• The addition of Benoit could create enough back-end bullpen depth that GM Matt Klentak could look to trade either Jeanmar Gomez or Hector Neris. Gomez saved 37 games in 2016, but struggled down the stretch. Neris showed great promise in recording a 2.58 ERA and striking out 11.4 batters per nine innings in 79 games in 2016. The hard-throwing righty is young (27), talented and inexpensive so the Phils would have to be overwhelmed by an offer to move him. Last year, Klentak moved a young closer in Ken Giles for a significant return from Houston, so he has history in making these types of moves.

• In addition to more potential comings and goings in the bullpen, the Phils will look to add a backup infielder and maybe a backup catcher in the coming weeks. Andres Blanco could return as that extra infielder. A.J. Ellis could return as the catcher. But nothing is firm. In fact, Klentak hinted Monday that he’d be comfortable bringing Andrew Knapp up from Triple A to be the backup catcher next season.

“I don’t think we need a veteran backup catcher,” Klentak said. “If it works out, we’re open-minded to that. But Andrew Knapp just finished his age 25 season in Triple A. He has a full year of at-bats in Triple A. At some point for both he and (Jorge) Alfaro, we’re going to have to find out what those guys can do at the big-league level. During the 2017 season, we’ll have to find out — not just about those two guys — but others.”

• One of the biggest remaining issues facing Phillies management this winter centers around the outfield and the offense. Basically, Klentak and his advisers are weighing the merits of adding another veteran hitter — the club already traded for Howie Kendrick — to improve the offense or giving a significant playing opportunity to a promising youngster and potential future core piece such as Roman Quinn in what currently projects to be one opening in the outfield.

“That topic is the one that we have spent the most time discussing, not just here but this offseason, about striking the right balance between adding a veteran bat or veteran free agent to this team to make our team better, but again, not taking playing time away from players that need the playing time.

“That’s part of the dynamic that we have to consider there. Roman Quinn came up at the end of the year and, at times, looked like a legitimate major-league contributor. But we also have to be mindful of the fact that he hasn’t logged a single at-bat at Triple A yet.

“This doesn’t have an obvious answer. We are continuing to talk about trade acquisitions and talk to agents for free agents to see if the right opportunity exists to blend all those factors together. But what we do not want to do is bring in so many veterans that we are denying opportunities to our young players.”

This brings us to a situation that could potentially satisfy the team’s desire to improve the offense without taking away a playing opportunity from Quinn.

J.D. Martinez of the Detroit Tigers is an outfield bat that the Phillies like. They like his production and the fact that he’s signed for just 2017. In other words, he wouldn’t block a young prospect’s pathway to the majors, at least for long.

Martinez, owed $11.75 million, which is very affordable for the Phillies, is a serious trade candidate for the cost-cutting Tigers and the Phillies have spoken to Tigers officials, dating to the early part of the offseason.

According to sources, the Phillies and Tigers could be a trade fit if the Tigers were to deal second baseman Ian Kinsler. If the Tigers move Kinsler, they could look to move Martinez to the Phillies for second baseman Cesar Hernandez. Phillies officials have said they are in no hurry to deal Hernandez, but the team does have depth at second with a pair of prospects (Scott Kingery and Jesmuel Valentin) on the way and a ready-made stopgap in Kendrick at the position. 

So keep an eye on Kinsler. If he moves, the Phillies could pursue the veteran bat that would make their offense better. And it would not cost Quinn an opportunity as he could play left field with Kendrick moving to second.