Picking Up the Slack for Mike Patterson: A Look at the Eagles' DT Depth

Picking Up the Slack for Mike Patterson: A Look at the Eagles' DT Depth

It didn't take very long for the first curve ball of training camp to shake up Lehigh -- mere minutes actually. Rick Burkholder opened for Andy Reid at his traditional opening press conference on Sunday, and the team's head trainer was not there to try out his new single. We learned from Burkholder that starting defensive tackle Mike Patterson is still recovering from brain surgery, has not been cleared to play by his physician, and therefore will miss training camp, perhaps more.

Patterson underwent the procedure back in January to remove a brain AVM, an issue we first learned about last summer after he suffered a seizure on the practice field. The surgery was successful, and Patt was hopeful he would be ready in time for the start of the season, but the part of his skull that was removed has not fully healed.

While that sounds mighty unpleasant, the situation isn't as bad as you would think. The truth is, there is a lot more good news to this story than bad.

First and foremost, everybody agrees Patterson is healthy -- the team, his doctors, the man himself. This is not a matter that is interfering with his day-to-day life. Now, they need to ensure he is completely healed and stable before he starts playing a collision sport. Makes sense.

The question is how long that will take. It was originally hoped to be only six months, and that Patterson would be ready for camp, but it could be several more, which obviously could last into the start of the regular season. Nobody is sure enough for timetables, but it doesn't sounds like there is any significant medical issue behind why. As Burkholder told the assembled, "Everybody heals differently."

The fact that Patterson should be fine is the best news of all, but from the Eagles' on-field standpoint, it has to be load off the organization's minds knowing they are relatively deep on the interior. They'll be missing a good player, one who has missed only two games since he was taken 31st in the '05 Draft, but the rotation should remain quite strong up the middle.

Cullen Jenkins

Of course, one half of the starting duo is intact, that being Cullen Jenkins. Jenkins arrived as a free agent, one of the few from last summer's spending spree who panned out. Voted as an alternate for the Pro Bowl, Jenkins had 5.5 sacks, was fourth among all defensive tackles on the Pro Football Focus list of pass rushing efficiency. There is some question as to whether the 31-year-old fell off down the stretch last season (0.5 sacks over final 11 games), but he still charted well, and there are better players behind him to help share the load than was the case a year ago.

Antonio Dixon

It's been such a long time since he last suited up, you could have forgotten about Antonio Dixon, but he was the first name Coach Reid mentioned when discussing who could fill in for Patterson. After starting 10 games in 2010 -- and acquitting himself fairly well for an undrafted, second-year player -- Dixon played in only four last season before tearing his triceps against the 49ers.

It was a bigger loss for the Birds than people realized, particularly against the run, an area that gave them fits for much of the season. PFF graded Dixon eighth among interior linemen in their run defense grades the previous season. In '11, Philadelphia finished 16th in the NFL against the run, 19th in yards per carry. Dixon figured to a bigger piece of the puzzle this year anyway, at least situationally, but now he may be asked to carry more of the load if Patterson's absence becomes prolonged.

Derek Landri

One of the best moves the team made this offseason was re-signing Derek Landri, even if only for one more year. A free agent who coincidentally was added after Patterson's episode last summer, Landri didn't make the roster out of camp, but he was brought back after Dixon was lost for the season. It was sort of a mystery why he wasn't with the club after a strong preseason, but once he got his chance when the games counted, Landri charted among the league's best.

If it seemed like #94 was living in the opposing offense's backfield, that's because he owned a timeshare at the very least. According to PFF, which billed Landri as the team's top run defender in '11, he graded fourth overall among 4-3 defensive tackles, and he was fifth among all tackles in pass rushing productivity. Football Outsiders Almanac ranked him third with a 91% stop rate (percentage of plays he was involved that FO considers stops). And while advanced stats are nice, we all saw the carnage for ourselves. Landri stood out week after week.

Fletcher Cox

The Eagles made Fletcher Cox the 12th overall pick in April's draft, and thus he was expected to come in and become a game changer sooner rather than later anyway. Now he'll get plenty of extra reps in camp, and if Patterson doesn't come back soon, Cox could make an impression and dig into his playing time, too. After all, Patterson is a quality player, but in the long term, Cox is supposed to be elite.

It's already been suggested that Cox was selected for exactly this reason, in case Patt would miss time. That may be true, but the main motivation still seemed to be acquiring a dominant pass rusher who fits defensive line coach Jim Washburn's wide nine front. Patterson has never had more than four sacks in a season, and his 2.5 in 2011 was his highest total since, so it's not just swapping one player for another, but entirely different skill sets. However, whatever the case was, there's no denying it's a good thing they have Cox now. 

With a solid mix of players around him, there's no reason why the current Eagles shouldn't be able to shoulder the burden until Patterson returns.

Instant Replay: Mets 5, Phillies 3, Oct. 1

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Instant Replay: Mets 5, Phillies 3, Oct. 1

BOX SCORE

Ryan Howard gave the fans a treat with a two-run home run in his penultimate game in a Phillies uniform, but that was the extent of the highlights Saturday afternoon as the Phils suffered a 5-3 loss to the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park.

With the victory, the Mets clinched a spot in the NL playoffs as a wild-card team.

The Phillies clinched their sixth straight loss and eighth in the last nine games.

They are 70-91 heading into the final day of the season.

Starting pitching report
Phil Klein worked four innings for the Phillies and gave up one run.

Mets starter Bartolo Colon went five innings and gave up just two runs. Both runs came on Howard’s homer in the fifth.

Bullpen report
Patrick Schuster and David Hernandez gave up runs in the sixth as the Mets broke a 2-2 tie. Hernandez allowed a two-run homer and took the loss.

The Mets’ bullpen pitched four shutout innings. Jeurys Familia closed it out for his 51st save.

At the plate
Howard’s homer was his 25th of the season, tying him with Maikel Franco for the team lead. It was the 382nd homer of his career, tying him with Jim Rice and Frank Howard for 67th on the all-time list.

Howard has six doubles, 13 homers and 32 RBIs in 47 games since July 3.

Darin Ruf smacked a pinch-hit homer in the seventh inning.

The Mets scored single runs in the fourth and fifth innings. James Loney put them ahead for good with a two-run homer in the top if the sixth. It broke a 2-2 tie. Asdrubal Cabrera drove in an insurance run with a single in the top of the ninth.

Up next
The Phillies close out the season Sunday afternoon against the Mets. Jerad Eickhoff (11-14, 3.72) pitches for the Phillies. Noah Syndergaard (14-9, 2.60) is the Mets’ scheduled starter.

The game will start at 3:05. The Phillies will honor Howard at 2:30.

Instant Replay: Temple 45, SMU 20

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Instant Replay: Temple 45, SMU 20

Recent history suggested that Temple and SMU would display some offensive fireworks Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field
 
The Owls lived up to their end of the bargain with a potent first-half attack, while the Mustangs are still wondering what hit them.
 
Temple began its defense of the AAC East crown by overwhelming SMU with 368 yards of total offense and sprinkling in a fumble recovery touchdown en route to a 45-20 thrashing of the Mustangs in both teams’ conference opener. All but 10 of the Owls’ points came in the first half.
 
The Owls’ defense kept the Mustangs’ uptempo offense in check most of the day, allowing 288 total yards and recording four sacks and two interceptions. SMU came into Saturday’s game averaging 448 yards of offense per game.
 
Temple (3-2, 1-0 AAC) effectively set a tone for the rest of conference play at the expense of the overmatched Mustangs.
 
SMU (2-3, 0-1 AAC) won’t be forgetting its first trip to Philadelphia since 1946 anytime soon.
 
Turning point
After Walker threw a pick-six to SMU’s Jordan Wyatt on the game’s opening drive, the Owls came back out with another uninspiring, fruitless offensive effort. The Mustangs had every ounce of the early momentum. But then the Owls unleashed their secret weapon in punter Alex Starzyk, who uncorked one of his trademark rugby-style punts. The ball bounced off a SMU player’s leg and Temple recovered at the SMU 42-yard line.
 
Seven plays later, Jahad Thomas scampered in from 12 yards out for a touchdown to tie the game. Temple went on to score 35 straight points and never looked back.
 
Injury report
Temple junior safety Sean Chandler was a sudden scratch Saturday with what the team called a knee injury. Redshirt senior Nate L. Smith started in Chandler’s place and recorded a pick in the second quarter. Thomas took over the punt return duties for the day.
 
Senior linebacker Avery Williams was a game-time decision with an ankle issue. He started but didn’t see his usual helping of snaps. Redshirt freshman Chapelle Russell and redshirt sophomore Jared Folks saw the field most in place of Williams.
 
Owls sophomore wideout Ventell Bryant, the team’s top returning receiver from last season, returned to action after missing the last three games.
 
Big men on campus
Sophomore Ryquell Armstead carried the rock 15 times for two touchdowns and a career-high 159 yards. It was his first career 100-yard rushing game. Those 159 yards are the most by an Owl since Thomas rushed for 199 against UCF last October.
 
Another game, two more rushing touchdowns for Thomas. He now has six touchdowns in three games since returning from a dislocated left thumb that forced him to miss the first two games of the year. He finished the day with 80 yards rushing and those two scores.
 
Romond Deloatch continues to do it all for Temple. Not only did the versatile senior have a 34-yard catch, he scooped up a fumble and brought it back for a defensive touchdown after lining up at defensive tackle in the second quarter. He palmed the ball off the ground like a basketball and trotted in easily from eight yards out.  Haason Reddick forced the fumble when he decleated SMU freshman quarterback Ben Hicks. Reddick had another sack and forced fumble on a huge hit of Hicks later in the game. The quarterback will be seeing Reddick in his nightmares.
 
Bryant made an impact in his return with a 43-yard touchdown reception.
 
Ugly day for Walker
For all the good things Temple did on Saturday, Walker, the Owls’ senior quarterback, didn’t have a game to brag about.
 
He wasn’t sharp at all as he went 7 for 18 for 124 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions on awful decisions. He stared down his receiver and forced the throw on Wyatt’s pick-six. He forced another throw along the sideline later in the game that was picked and led to a touchdown for the Mustangs. SMU defender Rodney Clemons dropped another easy pick in the third quarter.
 
Rough field conditions
The playing surface at Lincoln Financial Field was not in great shape Saturday, to put it politely. It was brown and torn-up from 30-yard line to 30-yard line. Beware. This is what happens when you mess with the combination of Beyoncé and Mother Nature.
 
Style watch
Temple broke out some sharp new black jerseys for Saturday’s game and paired them with white helmets and white pants. It was the first time the Owls wore black jerseys in two years.
 
Up next
There won’t be much rest for Temple this week. The Owls have to travel to Memphis for a nationally televised Thursday night matchup with the Tigers at the Liberty Bowl.
 
SMU heads to Tulsa next Saturday night.