Eagles defensive line coach Jim Washburn is a straight shooter, so he won't lie when he's asked about how difficult it is to replace Mike Patterson.  The Eagles defensive tackle will miss a couple of months, which should include a handful of games.  Patterson has started at least 14 games in six straight seasons.

“I miss a guy when I turn on the film on Monday morning that he plays solid the whole time," Washburn said. "He’s just always in the right place and does the right thing, and he’s going to play hard and knows what to do. It’s a constant."

Now, rookie Fletcher Cox and Antonio Dixon, who has just 10 career starts, will be relied upon more heavily.  The Eagles go from 197 career starts in their top four defensive tackles to 98. That means a little less certainty.

"You turn on the film and wonder how’s [defensive end] Vinny [Curry] or [defensive tackle] Fletcher [Cox] going to play or whatever," Washburn said. "Mike was the old solid guy that is always there. That’s a comfort to a coach to know that he’s always going to do the right thing."

Still, Patterson is impacting the team even though he can't get out on the practice field.  The 28-year-old is at training camp doing conditioning work, but he's also coaching up the young defensive lineman.

"Mike Patterson might be the one of the best people I’ve -- he doesn’t have to come to these rookie meetings at night and the afternoon, he doesn’t have to be there, but guess what?" said Washburn. "He's there. I said, ‘Mike, you don’t have to be there,’ and he said, ‘Well I like to be there.’"

"God dang, we miss him, now," Washburn said.

While it would stand to reason that Cox, a first-round pick out of Mississippi State, would be pushed harder now that the Eagles will rely on him more heavily, that might not be the case.

“He was going to be accelerated anyway," Washburn said. "He’s a good player – he’s got to play. Same thing, we’re going to try to have four tackles be starters."

Cox has the versatility to move to defensive end depending on the down and distance, and Washburn said he'll get him involved in all of the ways he'll be utilized right away.  Meanwhile, Dixon has made a big turnaround in Washburn's eyes.

Suffice it to say the defensive line coach wasn't particularly impressed with the 6-foot-3 behemoth last year.

“I was so disappointed, I couldn’t tell if he had any talent," Washburn said. "He weighed 365, or something like that. His back was killing him, he was out of shape, couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t even tell if he was a player."

Washburn says Patterson's lost at least 30 to 35 pounds, and the Eagles list him at 322 pounds.

"He’s in so much better shape I went, ‘Wow, this guy has some quickness and he likes to play,'" Washburn said. "He’s tough and he has ability. I was pleasantly surprised."

The Eagles already know they can count on Cullen Jenkins to lead the interior defensive line, but if Dixon is improved and Cox has a strong rookie year, Patterson's absence won't sting quite so much. Derek Landri should round out the group.

Eagles Sign Mat McBriar

The Eagles signed two-time Pro Bowl punter Mat McBriar to a one-year contract today.  The Eagles have until 4 p.m. to make a roster move to remain at the limit of 90 players.

The 33-year-old spent the last eight years with the Cowboys, averaging 45.3 yards per punt.  That's good enough for the Australian to rank fourth in NFL history.

Last yaer McBriar averaged 43.8 yards per punt with a net of 36.7, and had 21 of his punts downed inside the 20 yardline.

Chas Henry returns for his second season with the Eagles, but ranked 32nd in the NFL in net punting average last year, with 36.9 yards.  The rookie’s raw average of 42.9 yards per punt wasn’t much better, ranking him 29th.

Henry was tied for 25th in the league with 19 punts downed inside the 20-yardline.

While McBriar's statistics last year weren't too far ahead of Henry, his career numbers certainly are.  It should be an interesting battle through the preseason.

Shiancoe Picks Patriots

Visanthe Shiancoe, a veteran tight end the Eagles worked out yesterday, chose to sign with the Patriots.  It was reportedly a one-year deal worth $1.2 million, which likely means the choice wasn't made based on the financials.

The Eagles have plenty of cap room, and no reason not to beat that offer if they had their heart set on Shiancoe.

Shiancoe caught 36 passes for 409 yards and three touchdowns last year, but his best year was in 2009 when he hauled in 56 passes for 566 yards and 11 touchdowns.

While Shiancoe will be stuck behind Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in New England, he might actually get onto the field more than he would have in Philadelphia.

Last year the Eagles gave 1,341 snaps to tight ends with Brent Celek on the field for 971, according to Pro Football Focus. The Patriots gave 2,397 snaps to tight ends, with Gronkowski and Hernandez both over 1,000.

There have been reports that the Eagles are interested in Jeremy Shockey, but he has not yet visited. Shockey caught 37 passes for 455 yards and four touchdowns last year in Carolina, and has been hampered by injuries later in his career.

Ryan Messick covers the Eagles for 97.3 ESPN FM.  Follow him on Twitter.

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