When a reporter tracked down Trent Cole he was over near DeMeco Ryans’ locker stall, regaling the group of assembled linebackers with his tales of conquest. Animated, he was demonstrating how he was able to get a Redskins player down with a swipe of his powerful arm.
“Stop lying, Trent. You know you didn’t do none of that,” his teammates playfully fired back.
But they knew he had. Cole just walked over to his locker, a giant smile on his face.
His first night on the job as an outside linebacker had gone decidedly well.
“It was fun,” said Cole, letting out a long laugh. “I thought I owned it over there. That’s just the way it is when you feel dominant, man, like that… They’re like, ‘OK, this ain’t more of a linebacker, this is a d-end we’re going against.’ But I’m a linebacker now, you know what I’m saying? And I accept that.”
He made an immediate impact. On the Redskins’ first offensive play from scrimmage — a handoff to the right to Alfred Morris — Cole came barreling over from the opposite side and knocked the ball loose while bringing the back to the ground. Mychal Kendricks scooped it up to give possession back to offense, and Michael Vick cashed in with a 25-yard touchdown toss to DeSean Jackson.
Cole ended with four tackles, a tackle for a loss, two quarterback hits and a pair of hurries. He also got credit for a first-quarter safety by racing to touch down Morris, who had mishandled an RGIII toss in the end zone and was forced to the ground to cover it up.
“You’ve got a guy like Trent Cole, who is now asked to play outside linebacker, to see the game he had you can tell he’s definitely feeling comfortable in the position,” said Ryans.
Cole was asked to drop into coverage some. He was on the field for 62 plays Monday night per Pro Football Focus, and dropped nine times — or on 15 percent of the snaps. Connor Barwin was in coverage on 22 plays by comparison, while Brandon Graham did not drop at all in his 17 snaps against the Redskins.
“He attacked this whole defensive scheme change with the right attitude,” said defensive coordinator Bill Davis of Cole. “I think he’ll benefit from that and you saw a lot of that tonight.”
The nine-year veteran had been largely written off heading into this season. Not only was he coming off a down year, but was being asked to learn a brand new position at the age of 30.
Cole was asked if even he questioned whether he would be able to make it work as a linebacker.
“No, no. I just knew because I know how athletic I am and I know what I can do,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of confidence and I have the will not to fail and to do what I’ve got to do to get myself [prepared] to be good at that position.”
It was only one week, and it’s too early to deem this experiment a success. But Monday was at least a statement that we shouldn’t count Cole out quite yet.
“If people are [discounting me], let ‘em think it,” said Cole. “The games don’t lie.”
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