Fletcher Cox is ready to lead the Eagles defense in 2021 and beyond

PHILADELPHIA, PA – DECEMBER 13: Philadelphia Eagles Defensive Tackle Fletcher Cox (91) heads to the locker room before the game between the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles on December 13, 2020 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

Since being drafted in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Fletcher Cox has gone on to accomplish just about everything there is to achieve in the NFL. He’s a Super Bowl champion, a six-time Pro Bowler, and undoubtedly one of the best defensive tackles in Philadelphia Eagles history, and one of the most dominant of his generation. But with the winds of change blowing through the City of Brotherly Love, it’s fair to wonder what they mean for Cox.

For one thing, he’s now going to have his voice featured on a Tide Washing Machine. In a partnership between Tide and the NFL, Cox was asked to lend his tones for a special edition washer that you can actually enter to win by clicking this link. It’s very fitting that such an opportunity represents the new and exciting energy surrounding the Eagles.

Now 30-years-old, Cox has withstood every high and low of the past nine years. Head Coaches have been and gone, while some dreams have been realized and others shattered. He’s now the centrifugal force to a defensive line starting a brand new era of football. Realizing his impact on the team, Cox has embraced his role as a leader.

It’s not just me, there’s 10 other guys out there. I gotta do my job and lead and communicate to other guys what’s going on when they go in. If you keep doing that, you get a lot more respect from guys as a selfless player as opposed to selfish, that helps a bunch of other players up their game. 

– Fletcher Cox

For someone so ruthless and punishing, the Mississippi State product spoke with an element of calmness about him before later preaching patience. It’s a side of him that’s incredibly valuable to the team, and one we don’t get to see very often, which is probably the perfect embodiment of his play.

A lot of what Cox does well won’t ever show up on the stat sheet. He’s one of the few talents so dangerous to a quarterback that he’ll often face double teams and conceited efforts just to neutralize his impact. This can falsely lead people to believe he isn’t having an impact on the team, when the truth is that he’s facilitating the success of everyone else around him.

After a 6.5 sack performance in 2020 and a 3.5 sack season in 2019, it would be easy to see why Cox would potentially get frustrated. Guys around him were consistently getting hurt and he was having to play over 68% of snaps in each of the last three seasons. However, he’s learned to avoid getting lost in the numbers and instead remain patient, stating that he can’t get frustrated about things like that when there’s a whole defense looking to feast.

With a team-first approach, there’s ultimately a lot to be said about the leadership of Fletcher Cox. When you look at his personality, many view him as a fun, quirky player with a very aggressive game. He’s not often mentioned in the same conversation as guys like Brandon Graham when it comes to leadership, although BG is far more vocal about things.

Brandon Graham, the team’s most vocal leader on defense, is out for the season. All eyes now turn to another cornerstone to carry the torch.

Again, like many other aspects, Cox shines a light for his teammates only to stand outside it. Perhaps the most prominent memory I personally have of seeing what Cox does as a leader, was when he got into it with Jalen Mills back in 2018 after the fiery DB started taunting moments after being beaten on a 68-yard pass, pulling him away from trouble and reaffirming the situation.

Over the years, he’s worked out the best way to lead. Some do it through example, others by commanding the locker room with words. Fletch is more subtle. He’s more personal, and his teammates respect him for that.

It’s knowing different personalities. There’s almost 70 players on a team, it’s learning how to handle different people. Milton Williams is different to Javon Hargrave. Avonte Maddox is different to Darius Slay. When I started thinking about that and leading that way, I started to get more respect from those individual players. 

His efforts on the field have often seen a ripple effect across the defense. The defensive line tends to go as Cox does, resulting in consistent success for a rampant front four. With plenty of young players looking up to him, including his cousin, Kenny Gainwell, on the other side of the field, there’s more incentive than ever for Cox to set the tone.

Talking of which, it can sometimes be hard for veterans to find a reason to push as hard as they had in years past. Cox has done it all in the NFL and will go down as one of the most lethal defensive tackles that the team has ever seen, and is already primed to enter the Hall of Fame. But what keeps the fire burning? What is there left to tick off? For Cox, the answer is simple. That motor will keep firing so long as he’s still having fun.

I tell my Mom all the time, when I stop having fun, thats when I’m done with it. Really just trying to stay young and compete against the younger guys. I’m trying to stay young in the way I train, keeping things fun and interesting. The biggest thing is keeping it fun.

With an energetic Head Coach, a new-look defense, and a young franchise quarterback in the making, there are plenty of reasons to be excited…which means that we can hopefully see more of Fletcher Cox enjoying himself for years to come.

Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire