Each day, I've been taking a different position group and comparing the San Diego Chargers to the "Dream Team" that the Philadelphia Eagles have assembled. Today, in trying to compare the defensive lines, I've made the decision to group the Chargers OLBs in since otherwise we wouldn't be comparing pass-rushers. As usual, if you have an issue with this....well, find a better way to do it and I'll consider it.
DEs: Jason Babin, Trent Cole
DTs: Mike Patterson, Cullen Jenkins
This is a good line. Statistically, this could be a great line. Mike Patterson is everything you could want from a DT, a sturdy and typically-healthy run-stopper that commands double teams. Cullen Jenkins has spent the last few years as a monster DE in the Packers 3-4 defense, and could contribute as a run-stopped and a pass-rusher as well (7 sacks last season!).
I've been convinced, since living in Philadelphia myself, that Trent Cole is the most underrated defensive player in football. Season after season he plays all 16 games and can be counted to finish each year with double-digit sacks and solid run-stopping ability. When Cole gets brought up, I always have the urge to give him the overused nickname "Mr. Consistency." Despite rarely having a secondary pass-rusher on the team, Cole always seems to get to the QB.
Jason Babin, once a prospect and then a bust and now a success, inked a 5-year $27.7 million contract with the Eagles in hopes to take some pressure off of Cole. Whether or not Jason will be able to repeat his 2010, when he finished with 58 tackles and 12.5 sacks for the Tennessee Titans, is debatable considering he had six years of mediocrity prior to that season.
OLBs: Shaun Phillips, Larry English/Travis LaBoy
DEs: Luis Castillo, Corey Liuget/Jacques Cesaire
DT: Antonio Garay
If we're doing a player-to-player comparison, Shaun Phillips and Trent Cole essentially knock each other out. Cole might put up slightly better pass-rushing numbers, but Phillips is asked to do more in the 3-4 defense and does so very well.
Castillo matches up well with either of the DTs, but isn't significantly better than either of them. In the last three seasons, Luis has gotten better at staying on the field (45 games played) but has nearly fallen out of the box score. Offenses have been focused on stopping him but, with Garay making a name for himself in 2010 and Liuget hopefully asking for some attention at the other DE spot, that could change. Let's say that Luis knocks out Mike Patterson. If you disagree and think Patterson is better than Castillo, then we can go ahead and factor in the seizure Patterson suffered a few weeks ago. There, even.
For comparison-sake, I want to match Antonio Garay up with Jason Babin. Sure, Garay's struggles before 2010 were mostly due to injuries, but both guys essentially played at a Pro Bowl level in 2010 after never having done so before. These guys aren't rookies either. They're both 31 years old. You're wondering right now how comfortable you would've been signing Antonio to a 5-year big money contract in the past offseason, aren't you? Me too. These guys knock each other out.
Since the Chargers have an extra player in this comparison, and we still have no idea what Larry English might be when healthy (or if he's even the starter), let's take him and LaBoy out of this equation. Deal? Deal.
That leaves a final tie-breaking comparison. Cullen Jenkins vs. Corey Liuget/Jacques Cesaire. Similar to English, we have no idea what Liuget might be or if he'll even be the starter. Cesaire is a rock at DE when he's called upon to be there, but he's no Cullen Jenkins (5-year, $30.3 million).
Winner - Eagles. This is one of those position groups where the Chargers could be as good, or better, than the Eagles. However, the five guys they task with bringing heat on the QB and being the first line of defense against the run are far greater unknowns than the fellas the Eagles threw big money at to do those jobs. Speculation does not top performance, unfortunately.