Not long after the Eagles moved up to select Fletcher Cox with the 12th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Jim Washburn declared: “When God made [Cox], he made him to play in this system right here.”
That system was a Wide-9 4-3, in which an interior defensive lineman’s objective was to “rush, crush and close,” in the words of former offensive line coach turned defensive coordinator Juan Castillo.
We seem far removed from that era in a way, but in reality it was half of Cox’s NFL experience to date. After being trained for a full year to attack, attack, attack, Cox jumped to a role in a two-gap 3-4 scheme that required a shift in mind-set and technique.
“He was transitioning from a 4‑3 to a 3‑4 defense so I think his production towards the end of the year was most like everybody else on our defense. It was a little bit better towards the end of the year than it was the beginning of the year,” said Chip Kelly.
“But he’s big, physical and can run for a big guy. Very difficult to block in one‑on‑one situations, try to create some one‑on‑one situations for him but I think he’s really starting to get acclimated to what we are doing on the defensive line and obviously like everybody, I think year two will be better than year one for him.”
Cox was the Eagles’ co-leader in sacks his rookie year with 5 1/2. That sack total dropped to three this past season, though he led the team in hurries with 21. [Trent Cole was second with 15]. Billy Davis maintains that putting pressure on a quarterback — getting them out of their rhythm — is the big thing, and to that end Cox appeared to do his job at a pretty high level.
Cox has played in 31 of 32 games since joining the Eagles, including 25 starts, and has been productive overall. The expectations remain high within the organization that he can become a greater force.
The Yazoo City, Mississippi native trained four times a week at a facility near his hometown this offseason. He currently weighs about 315 pounds, which is near his playing weight last season. He hopes to get down to about 310.
The last time we saw Cox and his defensive line mates, they were having a difficult time in the playoff loss to New Orleans. That game hasn’t quite left the 23-year-old’s system.
“Of course we’re going to think about it,” said Cox. “We did our best. New Orleans did a lot of different things that we had never seen before. Learn from it and keep going.”
Cox may have been born to play in a Wide-9 4-3, as Washburn suggested, but the reality is that he is currently working in a two-gap 3-4. The belief is that the longer he is in it, the more he’ll look like a natural.
“I think with all those guys — Fletcher and Ced [Cedric Thornton] and those guys that hadn’t been in the scheme before, what you saw with them is as they grew in the scheme their performances got better,” said defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro. “I think what happens to you is, when you get an appreciation for the techniques and fundamentals that are involved — this is a technique and fundamental defense, this is a technique and fundamental offense, this is a technique and fundamental game — if you want to sustain success over a long period of time, you have to have that technique and fundamental foundation. I think those guys are getting there. It’s a work in progress.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
“Gut feeling, I think he’s better.” Nick Foles on Jeremy Maclin, rookie receivers.
Sheil offers observations from Tuesday’s two-hour long practice session.
New QB coach Bill Musgrave is working with Foles to have him “ditch the ball earlier in the down.”
Here’s what we’re watching during this three-day minicamp.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
The DeSean Jackson move got the attention of his former teammates, LeSean McCoy told Albert Breer.
“The whole DeSean Jackson thing, that helped out, to be honest, in making all the other guys aware,” star running back LeSean McCoy said last Monday in a private, post-practice moment. “It’s all possible. They’ll cut one of your best guys if (he’s) not buying in. On any team — any team — you look at that, and as a player, you can look at it from so many different sides, but no matter how good you are, you gotta follow these guidelines. And if you don’t, you could be gone. … You gotta buy in.”
Giants safety Antrel Rolle decided to hand out NFC East predictions. He has the Eagles finishing third in the division behind New York (of course) and Washington. From ESPN (via the Washington Post).
“I think if you have the right defensive scheme against the Eagles, you can definitely shut them down,” he said. “I think we displayed that in the second game we played them. As far as Washington, I think Washington has more weapons, and I think they added more weapons, especially to the offensive system. I think RGIII will definitely bounce back and have a better season this year. And defensively, I think they’ve added a lot of veteran leadership to their defense that’s gonna help them out a whole lot.”
The three-day minicamp continues. We’ll hear from Kelly, LeSean McCoy and DeMeco Ryans.