After receiving a payday that shook the grounds of every contract negotiation concerning Defensive linemen in the NFL, many expected Fletcher Cox to continue his surge to the top of the NFL. In 2015, the Eagles Defensive Tackle run rampant, racking up 71 tackles and 9.5 sacks and forcing 3 fumbles en route to his first Pro Bowl appearance. With Jim Schwartz in town and an aggressive scheme that plays to the strengths of Cox, the ceiling was incredibly high…but twelve games into the season, his feet have barely left the ground.
Cox has 29 tackles and 4 sacks this season..but hasn’t recorded a sack since a week four loss to the Detroit Lions. In his last five games, Cox has recorded just 14 tackles..and in the win over Atlanta, he didn’t record any.
The immediate defense for Fletcher Cox is that he receives a lot of double teams and much more attention from opposing Offensive lines now that he’s been paid like one of the elite pass rushers in the league..which is all true. As is the fact that Cox contributes in other areas, plugging the running lanes effectively and causing enough trouble for the likes of Brandon Graham to feast on an unprotected quarterback. But every elite defensive lineman faces the same problems and Cox certainly isn’t the only one seeing more attention. So how does Cox fare against some of the big DT names in the NFL this season?
This list is just a selection of some of the most impressive DT’s this season, but you get the idea. Suh, McCoy, Donald and Williams all see double teams on a regular basis..but their numbers speak for themselves.
The point isn’t really the lack of production from Fletcher Cox, because as aforementioned, he still produces and disrupts the quarterback. Doug Pederson alluded to this in his press conference earlier today:
“He gets a lot of double teams and a lot of hands on him. He still is, at times, very disruptive and can be a force inside. … Mentally he’s good, physically he’s good, it’s just a matter of the sheer determination of wanting to get the job done. He’s still a very capable defensive lineman for us. We do expect and I do expect a lot from guys like Fletcher and he does as well.”
The point is that the Eagles guaranteed Cox $63,000,000..and right now, his play is not living up to that standard. Everybody knows just how dominant Cox can be. He was nicknamed the “Man-Dog” for a reason last year and it’s not as if he’s lost any of the tangibles that make him such a handful.
However, Cox missed the opening two weeks of offseason workouts, as well as minicamp. All with the intention of securing the payday he later received. Now the payday has been and gone..and the Eagles are waiting to see the returns on their investment.
The argument wouldn’t be so prominent if it wasn’t for the Eagles lack in production over the last few weeks.The Eagles have sacked the quarterback just six times in their last five games..which on the surface alone is worrying. But both Seattle and Green Bay had wounded Offensive Lines that were on a plate for the Eagles pass rush. Aaron Rodgers was hit just two times in the Packers MNF win over the Eagles as the unit struggled to contain him, mirroring their problematic loss to the Seahawks just eight days beforehand.
In the last five games, the Eagles have played two extremely banged up Offensive Lines, a Falcons O-Line that has now allowed 27 sacks on Matt Ryan this season and a Giants O-Line that simply cannot establish a consistent run game and relies on Eli finding their perimeter threats. In those games, Cox has been near silent.
Then of course, there are his penalties. Cox has been flagged three times for roughing the passer this season..all in crucial third down situations that have then ended up in scores. It’s these simple errors that are only further damaging his game.
If the Eagles were coming up against extremely solid and capable Offensive Line’s then this argument would once again likely go unnoticed. But in games where the Jim Schwartz Defense should be tearing through Offensive line’s like hot Knives through Butter, the pass rush has been kept under wraps.
Fletcher Cox is still terrorizing Offensive Lines..but just like Trevor Siemian in Denver, the Chip Kelly Offense, Brock Osweiler and the three point bubble in the NBA, once one team finds the antidote, the rest will adapt and begin to take a swig.
But regardless of how well Cox is dealing with being double teamed and having to slash through a barrage of Tight Ends, the bottom line is this. In big time games, you need big time players to come up big. If a rookie quarterback can be so unfairly judged on a win-loss record, then the highest paid player on the team HAS to take some responsibility for the team’s recent drop in performance and lack of Defensive production.
The time has come for the excuses to dry out, the mask to be removed and the rose tinted glasses to be taken away. Fletcher Cox is simply not playing up to the standard many expected or even close for that matters. Forget the double teams, forget the penalties, forget the position change and forget the new Defense.
If you’re going to miss the opening few weeks of OTA’s and lose out on that crucial time adjusting to the system and taking on a leadership role just as players like Bennie Logan have, then when it’s all on the line and the team finally reward you for your hard work, deliver.
When the Defense turns to you in a crucial third down situation, make a stop. With the game on the line in the fourth quarter, find that extra drive and make a play. No more excuses. It’s time for Fletcher Cox to play like the star the team paid him as and the one that the NFL and his teammates expect to see.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports