Did Trent Cole wear down in 2010?

In Week 15 and against Green Bay in the playoffs, Trent Cole totaled one sack and zero hurries. (Ron Cortes/Staff file photo)

Did Trent Cole wear down at the end of last season?

It's a question that's been asked often since the Eagles' season ended a few weeks ago at the Linc against the eventual NFC champion Green Bay Packers.

Sean McDermott liked to rotate his defensive linemen in and out of games. But Cole was an exception. By my unofficial count, he played about 88 percent of the defensive snaps during the regular season (not counting Week 17 against Dallas). Only one other lineman (Mike Patterson) played more than 50 percent.

Cole finished with 10 sacks and 34 hurries. The "hurries" stat is kept by the team, not the league. Cole was first on the Eagles in both categories. Juqua Parker was second with six sacks. And Brandon Graham was second with 13 hurries.

But in the two games that doomed the Eagles' season, Cole was quiet. Against the Vikings in Week 15 and against Green Bay in the playoffs, he totaled one sack and zero hurries.

I broke Cole's numbers down into four quarters: Games 1-4, 5-8, 9-12 and 13-16. Cole didn't play in the season finale against the Cowboys so I used the Packers' playoff game instead. Here's what the numbers look like:

Games 1-4
Games 5-8
Games 9-12
Games 13-16

What the numbers bear out is that Cole was in fact less productive towards the end of the season. He had three sacks in the second half the season after picking up seven in the first eight games. Cole had 13 hurries in the second half, compared to 21 in the first half.

But has this always been the case? I took a look at Cole's performance in the past four seasons. Here's how those numbers look:

Games 1-4
Games 5-8
Games 9-12
Games 13-16

Cole's numbers in the final four games are down slightly when you total them up from 2007-2010, but the dropoff is not as significant as it was last season.

Other than the Packers playoff game, the above numbers only take into account the regular season. In the Eagles' playoff losses the last two seasons against Green Bay and Dallas, Cole has zero sacks and one hurry.

In his last five playoff games, Cole has one sack and five hurries. During the regular season (from 2007-2010), Cole has averaged 0.7 sacks and 1.43 hurries per game. In his last five playoff games, he's averaged 0.2 sacks and 1.0 hurries per game.

Which brings us to the present. Cole is by far the Eagles' best defensive lineman. He had some lapses against the run towards the end of the season, but overall, has been very good in that aspect also. Cole's had double-digit sacks in three of the past four seasons and his 34 hurries in 2010 were more than he had in any of the previous three seasons.

But how can he improve in 2011? SI.com's Peter King wrote about new Eagles defensive line coach Jim Washburn in this week's Monday Morning Quarterback. Here's what he had to say:

One of his secrets was charting every sack in the NFL each year to determine what kind of move was used (spin, bull-rush, stunt/twist) to get to the quarterback, and where exactly the sack took place. So let's say Washburn's study determined that the average sacks of the teams Tennessee was going to play the next year occurred 5.5 yards behind the left guard. Washburn would then coach the following offseason to target the area 5.5 yards behind the left guard as the spot during drills his linemen would aim for. He took pass-rush science to a new level.

I thought the 2008 season was especially strong for Washburn. His Titans didn't have an end or outside 'backer with any pedigree (other than Vanden Bosch, who was hurt much of the year) and yet the team totaled 44 sacks, 10 more than the voracious Rex Ryan-led Baltimore D, and more than any other team in the AFC but Pittsburgh. Andy Reid's made a good hire there. You watch Trent Cole, who already is a terrific pass-rusher, challenge for the sack title now.

King's not alone. Ex-Eagle Jason Babin, who played under Washburn last season and had 12.5 sacks, said during a radio interview with Harry Mayes of 97.5 The Fanatic that Eagles fans should expect big things out of Cole in 2011.

"I know, speaking with Trent in the past, I know Trent's wanted to play like I have played in Tennessee this past year for awhile," Babin said. "Just turn him loose, let him go, let a guy like Trent just go wild and make plays. I think this upcoming season, you'll see Trent's numbers really explode."

It'll be interesting to see what kind of impact Washburn has on Cole. And it'll also be interesting to see how the new defensive coordinator manages rotating players in and out of the game.

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