DL Review: Hunt Shines Once Again

Here’s a player-by-player breakdown of how the Eagles defensive linemen performed Monday night after having re-watched the game. Check out the linebacker review here, and look for write-ups of the rest of the positional groups on Tuesday and Wednesday. By the way, yes, I’m aware that Tom Brady and other starters did not play.

Cullen Jenkins – To read more about the dust-up with Andy Reid, click here and here. Most of Jenkins’ snaps came at the left defensive end spot for Jason Babin, and he wasn’t particularly effective. Jenkins had one tackle, and I didn’t notice him getting much pressure on the quarterback. On third downs, he often shifted inside to right defensive tackle, and Phillip Hunt took over on the outside. Reid said he likes Jenkins’ size against the run at defensive end, but I’m not sure we’re going to see him out there a lot when Babin gets healthy.

Fletcher Cox – The rookie got the start at left defensive tackle, alongside Derek Landri. As you’d expect, he was up and down, but has flashed the athleticism we saw in college.

Against the run, Cox stopped Shane Vereen after a 3-yard gain on a play where the Patriots were whistled for holding. Cox (2 tackles, 2 solo) later wrapped up Vereen, but not until the running back picked up 5 yards. He had a chance to bring down Brandon Bolden near the line of scrimmage, but couldn’t make the play, and the running back picked up 7. Cox did a nice job bringing Stevan Ridley down after a 2-yard run in the third.

As a pass rusher, Cox beat a double team and pressured Ryan Mallett, but was whistled for a costly roughing the passer penalty that negated a Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie interception. It looked like Cox tried to hold up, but it’s the kind of call we see flagged all the time. He did a good job to hit Brian Hoyer, throwing off the timing of a screen in the second. The only time Cox lined up outside was when the Eagles showed the look where the tackles shift out and the defensive ends stand up between them to rush the passer.

Derek Landri – Pretty quiet game for Landri (2 tackles, 1 solo), who ran with the first team. He got into the backfield a couple times but couldn’t get to the ballcarrier. Landri dropped Bolden after a 1-yard gain late in the first half.

Trent Cole – He had some good moments (3 tackles, 1 solo), even though Cole did not notch a sack. He hit Mallett as the QB got rid of the ball for an 8-yard gain in the first. He beat left tackle Nate Solder, pressuring Mallett and forcing him to rush his throw on an incompletion in the first. Cole would have had a third-down sack if not for Nnamdi Asomugha’s holding penalty. He knocked Solder to the ground with a bull-rush and forced Mallett out of the pocket in the red zone in the second. And Cole showed his trademark hustle, bringing Ridley down after a 2-yard gain in the third.

Phillip Hunt – He’s been outstanding in the first two preseason games. Hunt (4 tackles, 2 solo) played with the first team on third down, taking over at left defensive end as Jenkins moved inside and Landri came off the field. He got a hand in Mallett’s face on an early incompletion. He stopped Danny Woodhead after a 2-yard gain on 3rd-and-15 and hit Mallett, forcing an incompletion in the second. Hunt twisted inside from the LDE spot and hit Mallett on third down, but not before the QB completed a pass to Deion Branch for 20 yards.

Great hustle play: Hunt lined up as a rush linebacker, got all the way to the Patriots’ 35 (the line of scrimmage was the 28), then ran back after a completed screen, tackling Vereen at the 8. He beat Marcus Cannon around the edge and stripped Hoyer in the second. Later, he forced Hoyer out of the pocket, but the QB still completed a third-down pass to Donte’ Stallworth late in the first half. In the third, Hunt even lined up at right defensive tackle on one play.

Hunt will be on the roster, and the way he’s playing, he’ll have to be active on gamedays.

Brandon Graham – He played left defensive end with the second unit and was OK. Graham caused disruption, getting into the backfield on a Vereen run that was stopped after 2 yards. As a pass-rusher, he was matched up one-on-one against Cannon, but couldn’t get any pressure on Mallett on the second-quarter touchdown throw. On a different play, Graham got good pressure off the edge in the red zone, helping to force a rushed Hoyer throw and incompletion. He also got some pressure off the edge, forcing Hoyer to step up into a Thornton sack late in the second. And Graham was called for offsides in the first half too.

Overall, an ok performance. He will be on the roster and penciled into the defensive rotation.

Cedric Thornton – He continues to play himself onto the roster. Thornton (4 tackles, 2 solo) played left defensive tackle with the second group and forced Vereen to cut back on a 3-yard run in the first. He burst through the backfield and dropped Bolden for a loss of 1 in the second. And Thornton stopped Ridley for no gain in the third. As a pass rusher, he broke through up the middle against an initial double team and sacked Hoyer.

Antonio Dixon – Just not seeing it with him. Dixon had a pair of tackles (0 solo), but he’s not a factor as a pass rusher. I might have to leave him off my 53-man roster projection this week.

Darryl Tapp – Playing right defensive end with the second group, the veteran picked up a pair of personal foul penalties in the first half. Early on, center Ryan Wendell and Thornton had their hands in each others’ facemasks after the whistle. Wendell was on top of Thornton, and Tapp came over to shove him, drawing a peanlty. Later, he was called for a pretty obvious roughing the passer penalty. He also recovered the Hoyer fumble in the second after Hunt stripped the quarterback. Tapp sits squarely on the roster bubble.

Vinny Curry – The second-round pick didn’t enter the game until the final drive of the third quarter, playing right defensive end. I’d expect him to get more playing time in the last two preseason games.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.