As rookies and selected veterans reported to training camp at Lehigh today with the coaches, the first bit of breaking news has already hit. Per trainer Rick Burkholder, Mike Patterson “will not participate” in training camp due to a slow recovery from the surgery he had this offseason to correct the brain condition that caused him to collapse and have a seizure at training camp last year. Burkholder also said that there is “no timetable” for his return. Tim McManus reported that Patterson said he “feels ready to go out in pads and hit”, and said that the doctors’ decision “threw him off”. With Burkholder saying that the team was optimistic that the injury was not career-threatening, there would seem to be a chance of him returning later in the season. However, with him not participating in training camp, the team’s robust depth at defensive tackle has been shrunken down. So how does this injury affect the team?
First and foremost, it puts much more pressure on Fletcher Cox to be ready to start in Week 1. In the Wide-9 scheme the Eagles currently employ, the defensive tackles are expected to provide pressure up the middle. Antonio Dixon is a good run-stuffer, but struggles to get to the QB. He’s also coming off a torn triceps, so it remains to be seen how effective he is. Cox drew rave reviews for his ability to provide an interior pass rush, and he’ll need to be able to do so at the beginning of the season alongside Cullen Jenkins for the team’s defensive line to be as successful as it was last season. The spotlight is already bright enough on a first round pick, especially one who was traded up for, but this especially makes Cox the center of attention at camp and makes him a more important part of the team’s defense for the upcoming season.
It also means that, barring the team making a trade or signing a proven veteran, they will likely go with Jenkins, Cox, Dixon, Derek Landri, and Cedric Thornton as the DTs to start the season. A solid group, but Thornton is a major downgrade from Patterson.
One thing it does NOT mean is that the Eagles will pursue Albert Haynesworth. It would make sense on some levels: he’d be very inexpensive, his best years came under Eagles DL coach Jim Washburn in Tennessee, and they could use some depth with Patterson’s injury. However, Haynesworth has been proven to be nothing more than an out-of-shape, overhyped, and lazy player who also happens to be a locker-room malcontent. He hasn’t had a productive season since 2008. Last season, he recorded 23 tackles and no sacks in 13 games (6 starts) with the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He’s simply not worth the trouble. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Eagles brought him in on a non-guaranteed contract for training camp, but it’s far from a lock. To me, signing Haynesworth would create more of a media circus around a team that simply does not need any more media attention than it already has. And for what would amount to a 4th or 5th DT, wouldn’t the team be better served going with Landri, who recorded 21 tackles and 2 sacks in 12 games for the Eagles last year (no starts) and Thornton (who showed enough promise in training camp to beat out Landri and Anthony Hargrove for a roster spot) in those roles? It’s just one man’s opinion, and I guess it can’t hurt to bring Haynesworth in for a tryout, but I think they’d be better served by going with what they have in house right now.