Scouts Inc. has ranked every defensive line unit in the NFL, and NFC East contenders Philadelphia and Washington are knocking on the door of the top 10. Below is a look at how lines 11 to 32 shake out.
The Eagles rely on quickness and agility up front to force offensive lines into mismatches and confuse their blocking schemes. Undersized defensive tackles Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley can be explosive off the ball and shoot gaps, making it difficult to create running lanes; however, they primarily are run-stoppers who don't get a lot of pressure on the pocket but get the odd sack when the quarterback is flushed up the middle. Defensive end Trent Cole has improved his numbers in each of his three years in the league, all the way to 12.5 sacks last season. Cole is explosive off the ball and has good burst around the edge, and he has developed several counter moves when his first move is stymied. On the other side, the undersized Juqua Parker (formerly Thomas) sometimes struggles to hold his ground at the point of attack, but he has exceptional speed and acceleration off the edge.
12. Washington Redskins
The Redskins made a huge improvement in 2007, finishing the year as the fourth-ranked run defense (91.3 yards per game allowed) in the league. Veteran tackle Cornelius Griffin is a solid run-stopper, and third-year man Anthony Montgomery had a breakout year last season. Both have a lot of girth and do a good job in Washington's two-gap defense, tying up blockers and freeing the linebackers to run and make tackles. Defensive end Phillip Daniels is on the downside of his career but still provides leadership and know-how, while Andre Carter is the Redskins' most consistent lineman and gave them 10.5 sacks off the edge in 2007. The key will be how this unit responds to a new defensive coordinator and a new scheme in 2008.