While no team likes to see any of their own fall victim to the injury bug, there are few players that a team can actually afford to lose.
This sentiment holds true even for the Philadelphia Eagles, a team loaded with Pro Bowl talent on both sides of the ball.
In this article, we place a focus on the defensive side of the ball and count down the five defenders that Andy Reid cannot replace.
The marriage between Jason Babin and Jim Washburn’s wide-nine scheme is something that’s scripted for a fairytale ending.
Babin is tailor-made for an attacking system, one that places a premium on getting to the quarterback and makes other aspects of defense secondary.
After spending the first six years of his career with four different teams and collecting 17.5 sacks, Babin has tallied 30.5 quarterback takedowns in the two years he’s played under Washburn’s tutelage.
Not only does the 32-year-old veteran get to the quarterback with regularity, but also has a tendency to reach them in clutch situations.
So while the team has tremendous depth along the defensive line, no one can replicate Babin’s production as a pass-rusher.
Although Jason Babin collected seven more sacks in 2011, Trent Cole remains to be the Philadelphia Eagles’ most complete defensive end.
The seven-year veteran has averaged 10.5 sacks over the past six seasons and routinely ranks as one of the best run-stopping defensive ends in the league.
His explosive first step and ability to get around the edge while keeping track of the football makes him more valuable to a team that struggled against the run.
Cole has a motor that never stops and only seems to get stronger as the game progresses. If it weren’t for Jim Washburn’s rotational system, Cole would never leave the field.
Aside from his complete all-around game, Cole will occasionally make a play that you simply can’t teach.
The back end of Philly’s secondary has been in a state of flux ever since the departure of Brian Dawkins, and would be the primary target of criticism if it weren’t for such terrible linebacker play.
Nate Allen will enter 2012 fully healthy and one year removed from a right knee injury that forced him to miss the final three games of his rookie campaign.
The combination of a shortened offseason and this lingering injury knocked Allen off his starting free safety role as he struggled to get himself re-acclimated. It wasn’t until the Eagles closed the season on a four-game winning streak that Allen seemed back to his normal self.
If Allen has to miss any significant amount of time, first-year secondary coach Todd Bowles will have a difficult time finding a suitable replacement in Jaiquawn Jarrett.
The Philadelphia Eagles will be looking to deploy more man-to-man press coverage in 2012, which explains why the Asante Samuel trade can be viewed as more than just a salary dump and why Nnamdi Asomugha will need to return to his shutdown form.
Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo featured Asomugha in a Charles Woodson-like role in 2011, moving him from cornerback to linebacker and even to safety. This experiment didn’t yield positive results, but still proves the intelligence and versatility of the 10th-year veteran.
Asomugha will return to a more traditional role in 2012 and be expected to dominate receivers off the line of scrimmage like he routinely did in Oakland. His ability to eliminate one-half of the field will be imperative to the successes of the wide-nine and Eagles defense as a unit.
If the All Pro corner were sidelined for any reason, the Eagles would be without a reliable man-to-man defender and force Castillo to be more selective with his play-calling.
The moment the Philadelphia Eagles announced the acquisition of middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans was moment he became their most important defensive player.
For Philly fans, his presence means that the linebacking carousel will finally come to a merciful end.
Not only does Ryans come to the City of Brotherly Love with Pro Bowl credentials, but is also a reliable tackler who knows how to command a huddle and how to get teammates lined up properly.
His presence will stabilize a shaky unit that also projects to start a rookie at outside linebacker.
If Jamar Chaney sees any extended action in place of Ryans, the Eagles will be in serious trouble and once again susceptible to the run.