One more game. That’s all it will take for the Philadelphia Eagles to reach their first Super Bowl in over a decade. The franchise is still without a Lombardi trophy in their cabinet but both players and fans alike are aching to change that. In order to do so, the team will lean on two of its most prominent defensive leaders.
After being drafted in the first round back in 2012, Fletcher Cox would be joined by Super Bowl winning Safety, Malcolm Jenkins one year later. The two would grow together both on and off the field and through culture changes, coaching changes and a rollercoaster few season’s, the duo are ready to lead the Eagles to an NFC Championship. Both players were named to the Pro Bowl again this year, rewarding their incredible play. But off the field is where their biggest impact Is arguably made.
“I mean, sometimes, me and Malcolm are two different guys.” Cox told reporters yesterday when asked about the leadership traits possessed by the pairing. “Malcolm, he’s more of a vocal guy. He gets things done. When he talks, I listen. When I talk, he listens. The thing I’ve learned from Malcolm is being a leader is not just about all rah-rah. It’s not just being about the oldest person on the defense. Being a leader is going out, getting your job done and holding each other accountable. I think we both do a great job of that.
Cox has 5.5 sacks on the year and is coming off of arguably his most impressive game yet against the Falcons. A dominant force in the run as well as making life difficult for Matt Ryan, Cox was the most impactful player on defense in a game where Jim Schwartz and his team of terror simply had to decimate.
Meanwhile, Malcolm Jenkins amassed 76 tackles this season. The veteran safety lined up all over the field. In the box, over the top, in the nickel, Jenkins was the Eagles defensive cheat-code in 2017, just as he was one year ago. With such a young secondary, Jenkins was often turned to with the expectation of leading the back-end of the Birds’ defense, setting the example both on and off the field.
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“This year, I think the first week he called on me and then the next week he called on me.” Jenkins said of Pederson giving Jenkins the leadership role. “Then after a while it was like we’re very superstitious football players. So when you’re winning, you don’t change anything, and I end up kind of just being that guy. Obviously, it’s a role that I embrace.”
That role fed directly into what we goes on behind the scenes too. The Eagles now almost have a routine after every game. Doug Pederson will stand in the middle of all 53 players and rally the troops. Unifying them under the same banner after a win, or re-reaising the flag to remind the team what they’re fighting for after one of the (very few) losses. After that, Malcolm Jenkins steps in and attempts to pave over any bumps. Brings down those that are too high or raising those that are too low can be a difficult task in a game so emotional engaging, but Jenkins is able to find that middle ground.
“Literally we come in, Doug talks to the team a little bit and then I talk.” The veteran safety noted yesterday. “Most of it is just kind of off of my heart. I kind of try to analyze the situation of where we are as a team, do a little bit of reflection, but make sure that it’s not just an emotional response to keep everybody in perspective. Just because it’s easy to get too high or too low after a win or loss. It’s easy to start to listen to all of the things that people are getting ready to say. A lot of times I’m talking to myself to be most honest. Knowing that the media’s coming in right after that and you’re going to get all these kind of questions, whether somebody wants you to talk really, really highly about yourself or they want you to talk badly about your teammate, or they want to ask you about doubting yourself or being super confident. All those things you’ve kind of got to temper. So most times when I address the team, I’m really talking to myself.”
Talking to himself or not, Jenkins has earned a reputation as one of the team’s most inspiring leaders, as has Fletcher Cox. Growing through the constant adversity faced by the team and becoming mainstays throughout the toughest of storms, Cox and Jenkins now face one last chance to rally a locker room who look to them for hope, inspiration and guidance through their toughest challenge yet.
The stakes are at their highest. The reward is an appearance in the Super Bowl. The mantra? “We all we got. We all we need.”
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports