Cole making the adjustment from DE to LB
SOMETIMES an old dog has to learn new tricks - especially in the ever-changing world of the NFL.
For eight seasons, Trent Cole earned his reputation as a pin-the-ears-back defensive end. His primary focus was getting pressure on and sacking quarterbacks.
The role suited Cole well as he went from a fifth-round draft pick out of the University of Cincinnati to a two-time Pro Bowl selection.
Cole is third on the Eagles' all-time sack list with 71.0, trailing Reggie White (124.0) and Clyde Simmons (76.5).
Coming into the 2012 season, Cole was rated at No. 56 on a top-100 players list, as voted by his peers.
Still, as a guy who is playing for his fifth defensive coordinator with the Birds, Cole, 30, knows adjustment is a part of NFL life.
"It is a new year every year," said Cole, who is getting set for his ninth NFL season.
The 2013 season is bringing the biggest adjustment in Cole's career. It's not just that he's under new coach Chip Kelly after spending his entire career under Andy Reid.
It's not that he has another new coordinator in Bill Davis and his switch to a hybrid 3-4 defense.
But after 124 NFL games (114 starts) as a hand-on-the-ground lineman, Cole is no longer listed as a defensive end. Instead, he is now the Eagles' starting right outside linebacker.
In one dramatic offseason, Cole has gone from a player who would have been the most senior member of a defensive line to the least experienced starter at linebacker.
"You have to realize that it's a different situation," Cole said as the Eagles prepared for their season opener on Monday night at Washington. "I might now just see 10 rushes a game, 15 rushes, and that's it.
"But the main thing is that I am here to play for the Philadelphia Eagles. I'm here to win games, to do my job at the position put me in. It is what it is, but I'm here to do my job."
In a sense, the Eagles are asking Cole to change his mentality from a proactive one to a reactive one.
Cole's running with a tight end in coverage, rerouting a receiver off the line of scrimmage or being aware of a runner coming out of the backfield will be just as important, perhaps even more, to the overall success of the Eagles' defense as his getting to a quarterback.
"There is a lot of thinking when it comes to being in coverage," Cole said of the changes to his responsibilities.
"You've got to watch everything and make a decision. When you're rushing the passer, you just go. You feel it and you know instantly.
"When you're at that linebacker spot in coverage, you've still got to make quick decisions. It ain't going to be as fast as at defensive end and rushing the quarterback, but you got to make them quick.
"Everything comes along with it. You have to read, you have to react. It's not all natural instinct. You have to think, make a decision and then go. But it's got to be in an instant."
Things unquestionably will be different for Cole, but it is wrong to say that all he did in the past was rush the quarterback.
Unlike former Eagles defensive end Jason Babin, who shirked all other responsibilities in a single-minded intent to get into the backfield, Cole has always done other things.
He has 651 career tackles and has averaged 50 solo tackles a season. He has been tackling someone besides quarterbacks.
Cole made some mistakes during the preseason, but he didn't look lost or incapable of handling his new job.
"I love getting sacks, don't get me wrong," he said, "but I think I can be an impact player in this role.
"This is my opportunity to create an impact in two different ways. In the trenches, I can still put pressure on the quarterback and I can do coverage that helps in the secondary.
"I know I can be good at this. I will work to be good at this in all of the time that I may have here."
If there are bruised feelings, Cole has either buried them or does a good job of masking them.
"If you want to say I have a chip on my shoulder, that's OK," he said. "But I look at it as a new challenge.
"I'm not a guy who dwells on the past, not a stats guy. I don't have a lot of trophies or game balls sitting on my shelves at home.
"I just love playing the game, playing a team game. That's what I've been born and bred to do. You take care of your business individually, so that we can all come together as a team when it is time to get the job done. Whatever I've got to do to get it done, I will."