Everybody gets their turn, but Fletcher Cox has spent his fair share of time in Jim Washburn’s crosshairs this summer. When the 62-year-old southern flamethrower decides it’s your day, he starts in on you and doesn’t relent. From across the field you’ll hear, “Fletcherrrr!” followed by a series of phrases generally unsuitable for print.
“For one thing, under Wash, you have to have tough skin. If you’re a guy where it’s easy to get under your skin…you’d have a pretty hard time here,” Cox acknowledged.
It makes sense that Washburn would zero in on Cox. After all, the rookie will be thrust into a big role immediately, so it’s important that he is up to snuff. But it’s not all tough love that the defensive line coach is showing the 12th overall pick.
“Coach Wash always tells me, ‘Fletcher, there is no pressure on you.’ That’s the type of things I like to hear,” said Cox. “There might be some places where a lot of folks say, ‘Hey, there’s a lot of pressure on you so you have to deal with it,’ where Coach Wash is different. He’ll say, ‘Fletcher there’s no pressure on you so go out and play as hard as you can.’”
It’s a smart play by Washburn. There’s already enough to think about – new team, new scheme, new town, a crazy guy breathing down your neck – why give him one more thing to be consumed by? Streamline the process and keep the mind as clear as possible.
“Great players are often neutralized by their own team if they are overloaded with too much information,” said former Eagles scout and national scout for OurLads, Dan Shonka. “A lot of times their heads will be swimming because coaches overload them.”
Shonka rated Cox as the top defensive tackle in April’s draft and had him pegged as a player who could bounce outside, particularly in a Wide-9 scheme. The Eagles have already shown some looks where the Mississippi State product flexes out to defensive end.
“One of the reasons we liked him is because he played some linebacker in high school and then became a dominant defensive lineman,” said Shonka. “He is just so athletic. Physically he has all the tools.”
Cox joined the defensive tackle rotation right away and could conceivably be an opening day starter, especially with Mike Patterson still sidelined. The 6-4, 298-pounder says he feels like he is coming along but is still learning “how to do things the right way” from the veterans.
Juan Castillo explained exactly what Cox is working on.
“With Wash’s concept, you rush and you crush and you close,” said Castillo. “Initially all the young kids when they first start in the system, it’s rush. The next part you are working towards is crush – so that when he reads run, he’ll be able to react to that or close when he needs to. He’s been doing a good job getting off the football in practice.”
“The No. 1 thing,” said Cox, “is getting off the ball. Getting off and causing a whole lot of havoc.”
Washburn is trying to make that the lone focus.