Twitter Mailbag: Is Fletcher Cox Being Used Properly?

0V3J8978Every Thursday we select a few of your Twitter questions and provide the long-form answers they deserve. For a chance to have your question published on Birds 24/7, send it to @Tim_McManus.

From @aerelorn: Thoughts on Fletcher Cox being asked to 2-gap? Is putting your best D player in a position to *not* succeed the right answer?

The answer to the second part of your question is obviously no. You have to cater to your players’ strengths, and both Chip Kelly and Billy Davis have vowed to do just that since the moment they got here.

That said, I found this exchange between Kelly and a reporter interesting.

Is Fletcher Cox a better two-gap guy or one-gap guy?

“I don’t think you could put one or the other because they have to do both.  It’s not like you can take them out because you are going to switch defenses every play.  When we two gap we put this guy in. When we one gap, you put that guy in.  No, you’re giving up too much,” said Kelly.

 ”I know as an offensive coach, I would love to know when that guy’s in the game, it’s two‑gap defense; when that guy’s in the game, it’s one‑gap defense.  They’ve got to be able to play at both.”

When it’s a guy like [Cox], do you cater your defense more?

“To one guy?  No, we don’t cater our defense to one guy, because there are ten other guys you have to worry about.  There are a lot of different things when you go through everything.  We’re going to try to play to the overall team strength.  What are we best at.”

I agree that playing to the strength of the 11 is more important than playing to the strength of one. I also believe that this team will only suffer if Cox — arguably the best player on this defense — is rendered less effective because of the system.  A couple things to keep in mind: 1) While Cox struggled on Friday, it was only one game. It’s totally possible that a man of his talent adapts and thrives in this scheme before long. And 2) the Eagles have said that they are working towards becoming a two-gap 3-4 defense, but will stop short along the way if it makes sense. You can argue that beyond Cox, Vinny Curry, Cedric Thornton, etc. would be best suited playing one-gap. I bet we see more one-gap than two-gap in the first year.

[If you're saying to yourself, "What the hell are they talking about?" read Greg Cosell's piece. He does an excellent job breaking down gap concepts.]

From iMark_Sarnoski: once the starting QB is selected do you think either Vick or Foles will be on the move? Will they keep both in case of injury?

I feel pretty confident that they will keep both. Kelly has repeatedly said that you better have two capable quarterbacks in the NFL, and I think that’s particularly true when one of those QBs is Michael Vick, who has trouble staying healthy for the full 16. I believe that’s part of what this quarterback competition is about — getting both Vick and Nick Foles ready to start, because there is a good chance both will have to at some point this year.

It’s possible that Vick could be moved if he loses the job and becomes disgruntled, but I don’t see that happening.

From @Ngu_Year: who has had a better camp, Damion Square or Cedric Thornton?

Damion Square has stood out more, but it’s tough to compare because Thornton has run much more with the first team.

The good news for the Eagles is that they look to have some good, young talent along the defensive front. Whether you’re talking about Square, Bennie Logan or Curry, they should all have a chance to make an impact.

 ”We’re going to continue to look at those guys just like we look at them every day in practice, and make a determination on who is the best.  But a lot of times with the d‑line, because of how this game is played, we’re going to be playing all six if we keep six on the active roster,” said Kelly.

 ”I think in that position particularly you’ll see that more in the NFL.  People are starting to rotate defensive linemen and keep them fresh just because it’s such a tough position to play.  I know that’s kind of our thought process going in.  So I think you’ll see all of those guys again kind of rolling through.”

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