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Trent Cole had a forced fumble, was credited with a safety, had a tackle for loss in the running game and also made four tackles in Monday's win. (AP)
LANDOVER, Md. -- One of the biggest questions facing the Eagles’ rebuilt, restocked, reconfigured defense this year was whether Trent Cole -- at 31 years old and in his ninth NFL season -- could reinvent himself as a linebacker.
One game into his new career, the answer is … wow.
Cole might have been the Eagles’ defensive MVP Monday night in their season-opening 33-27 win over the Redskins at FedEx Field.
Although the Skins scored 27 points, only 20 came against the defense, and Cole was active all night in his new role as an outside linebacker.
He had a forced fumble, was credited with a safety, had a tackle for a loss in the running game and also made four tackles. Cole had several effective pressures on Robert Griffin III and held his own when he was asked to drop back and cover. He also had great push on a sack that was credited to Fletcher Cox.
“I came out here, and they put me in a position to play,” Cole said. “Like I told you before the past weeks, wherever they put me I’m going to play.
“I’m not going to fail, I am going to do whatever I can and do my best at it. I feel like I can play the position.”
Cole is coming off a miserable 2012 season -– like most of the Eagles. He had just 3½ sacks after averaging 11 the previous six years.
But after spending his entire career as a 4-3 defensive end, he seems rejuvenated in defensive coordinator Billy Davis’ 3-4 system, which does ask him to drop back at times but also gives him plenty of opportunities to rush the quarterback -- both as a stand-up linebacker and with his hand in the dirt in some fronts.
“This is a start for me, I’m excited,” Cole said. “This is exciting for me, a new position. It is a start for me. I’m just going to continue improving and improving.”
The Eagles won Monday night despite allowing 307 second-half yards and 20 points in the game’s last 15½ minutes.
Cole and his defensive teammates know that they need to learn to finish. The Redskins came up one onside kick short of having a chance to win the game Monday night.
The effort has to be for 60 minutes, not 30 or 45. But the bottom line is the Eagles are 1-0 and Cole had a lot to do with it.
“Yeah, it got a little hairy there in the end,” Cole said. “We’ve got to start strong and finish strong. There is some room for improvement. They got on us for a little bit. But you have to win. A win is a win.”