Weekend Reading: Fletcher Cox’s Impact Across the League

Plus, what does Ben Roethlisberger have to say about Carson Wentz?

Fletcher Cox. (Jeff Fusco)

Fletcher Cox. (Jeff Fusco)

Here’s this weekend’s roundup of the national stories about the Eagles:

In Denver, the Fletcher Cox extension puts the Broncos in a more difficult situation to sign Von Miller, as Mike Klis of KUSA reports.

Even with Cox’s $63 million guarantee coming in over four years — $55.2 million over three years in “new” money, while [Ndamukong] Suh’s $60 million is over three seasons and the Broncos’ offer of $58 million to $59 million in guarantees to Miller is over three years – it can’t be argued the Eagles just guaranteed more dollars to Cox than the Broncos are offering to Miller.

For Cox, another key to his guarantee would be an early trigger mechanism that converts a third-year, injury-only guarantee to a full guarantee after the first season of his extension.

When a player has two years of full guarantee, he is virtually assured of not getting cut after his first season. Thus the early-trigger language after season one virtually assures the third season will be fully guaranteed.

Cox is represented by Todd France, who got the early trigger for a third-year conversion from injury to full guarantee on the contract of Buffalo defensive tackle Marcel Dareus and it’s believed the agent got the same early trigger in Cox’s deal.

It’s also playing a role in Carolina, as it may throw a wrench in keeping Kawann Short, writes David Newton of ESPN.com.

As much as [Dave] Gettleman loves the big men he affectionately refers to as “hog mollies,’’ it’s hard to imagine him giving Short more than $15 million a year. Not after he’s spent the past three years getting Carolina out of salary cap hell.

Gettleman probably would like to sign Short for between $13 million and $15 million a year. But Cox’s deal almost ensures that won’t happen.

Remember, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton signed a five-year, $103.8 million deal that averages $20.8 million a year last June. He got $60 million guaranteed.

Middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, a three-time Pro Bowl selection and the 2013 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, signed a five-year deal before last season that averages $12.4 million a year.

They are considered the cornerstones of the offense and defense.

Jim Schwartz‘s new schemes on defense are giving his guys the chance to succeed, says Doug Farrar of SI.com.

So, how does the Eagles’ current defensive personnel fit into that structure? Most of the players seem happy with the switch, and it’s easy to see why. Cox is one of the best multi-gap players in the league—he can play anywhere from end to straight up nose tackle and dominate—but his base position will likely be three-tech in this scheme. And as a one-gap inside penetrator, he has the attributes to be an absolute terror. [Bennie] Logan would ostensibly be the one-tech, the guy responsible more for stopping inside runs and soaking up blocks.

At end, there are a lot of options. [Brandon] Graham is a perfect fit, as is the underrated and underutilized Vinny Curry. [Connor] Barwin may see some situational time as a pass-rushing end, but Schwartz is too smart of a coach to avoid taking full advantage of Barwin’s positional versatility.

Nolan Carroll and Leodis McKelvin are the most likely starters at cornerback—Schwartz had McKelvin in Buffalo—while Jenkins and former Rams standout Rodney McLeod are likely to play a ton of reps at safety. Schwartz has been particularly complimentary of Jenkins and McLeod as a dynamic safety tandem, though Jenkins really broke out last season as a multi-position defensive back, proving he’s able to play safety and slot cornerback with equal aplomb. Eric Rowe, along with rookies Blake Countess and Jalen Mills, may be factors throughout the season.

Schwartz has plenty work with here, and while one never knows for certain who may line up where, one thing is for sure: in today’s NFL, it’s crucial to have as many DB options as possible, especially with players who have the ability to shine in more than one role.

Phil Sheridan from ESPN.com writes that Schwartz’s defense is all about intimidation and pressuring the quarterback.

Buddy Ryan used to say he got the idea for his jailbreak “46” defense from his former boss, New York Jets coach Weeb Ewbank. After watching Ewbank obsess over ways to protect his quarterbacks, Ryan figured a defensive coach should be just as obsessed with disrupting quarterbacks.

When he was head coach of the Eagles, Ryan’s defensive coordinator was Jeff Fisher, who went on to become head coach of the Tennessee Titans. Schwartz spent almost 10 years as a defensive assistant on Fisher’s staff in Tennessee.

So the X’s and O’s have evolved over the past 30 years, but the guiding principle — get to the quarterback — has remained the same.

Without pads, it is difficult to assess how defensive players are doing. We did get a glimpse, though, during one recent practice. It was held indoors because of weather, and the Eagles’ three quarterbacks had a miserable time.

On nearly every play, the defense came crashing through the offensive line and forced the quarterbacks to get rid of the ball. That is the way Schwartz wants his defense to play, and it will be compelling to watch him implement that kind of aggressive play in Philadelphia.

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger says the small school disadvantage that some people think will hurt Carson Wentz won’t be an issue at all, writes Ryan Wilson from CBS Sports.

“You know, people do make a big deal about the small school, and his school is even smaller than Miami was, a MAC school,” Roethlisberger told Talk of Fame Network‘s Clark Judge. ‘But I think what you look at is: What did he do at that school? Yeah, maybe the competition level wasn’t that great, but it’s not like he just went out and had a winning season. He won national championships for that school … and that’s pretty impressive….

“If you look at what Carson did in college, a lot of it … he’s not afraid to get under center … he did it. He can drop back and pass. He can do the play-action stuff. He can do the boots and nakeds — things you just don’t see a lot of in typical college football for the most part. There are still teams that do it. But I think he’s as prepared as anybody because of the type of system he played in and the work that he put in to get himself NFL ready.”

If that sounds familiar, it should; there was a report late last month that Wentz was ahead of veteran Sam Bradford in grasping the Eagles’ new offense under first-year coach Doug Pederson. And last week, Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich said Wentz is “absolutely” further along than most rookies at this stage in the proceedings.

In a time of aging QBs having success, Mike Sielski from the Inquirer ponders whether or not the Eagles made the right move by re-signing Sam Bradford.

As Kevin Clark of TheRinger.com detailed last week, the NFL is in the midst of a golden era for golden-oldie quarterbacks. “The top eight players by passing yards per game last season were all north of 30, a feat never equaled in the NFL,” Clark wrote. Nine times since 2011, a quarterback 34 or older has played at least 10 games and posted a passer rating of at least 100; before that five-year span, it had happened six times in league history. More, of the 13 quarterbacks who threw 29 or more touchdown passes last season, seven were older than Bradford, and the youngest of those seven was Aaron Rodgers, who is 32.

This trend is no coincidence. The increased knowledge of and emphasis on training and nutrition can allow every player, quarterbacks included, to lengthen his career. And by making the sport more pass-friendly (calling pass interference and illegal contact more closely, for instance) and the offseason less rigorous (players cannot wear pads during the nine-week program), the league has created conditions favorable to savvier, more experienced quarterbacks. In this environment, a veteran quarterback’s mind becomes a more effective weapon against defenses and a vital advantage over a callow challenger trying to take his job.

Howie Roseman‘s philosophy of locking up core players isn’t something brand new, says Albert Breer of the MMQB.

“The market doesn’t go down,” said Roseman. “With each free agent class, the market naturally goes up. So if you do some deals early, that make sense for both sides, it can help you. It’s like drafting. You won’t get every one right and see everyone to the end of their deal, but you try to get more right than wrong and keep the team together that way.”

Now, Roseman was quick to point out the Eagles aren’t reinventing the wheel here. In fact, the team employed this way of doing business regularly under Andy Reid, so this is one more way that the new regime in Philly is similar to the old regime, with an emphasis on getting guys in their mid-20s locked up.

And owner Jeffrey Lurie certainly has a hand in it. It’s his investment too, and his call for a more unified organization back in January is a part of this.

“I can’t speak for the players,” Roseman said. “But you hope to create an environment where players understand that if they play well and do the right things on and off the field, they don’t have to leave here to make more money.”