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August 27, 2015

Breakfast with the Birds: Fletcher Cox is the Eagles’ next star

Eagles NFL

Every once in a while, the Daily News breaks out the “Agenda” format where the whole sports staff tackles a single big-picture issue. This time, they put the Eagles under the microscope, specifically asking the question “Who will be the team’s next All-Pro?

It’s a good question, and taking into consideration that the Eagles have a chance to be pretty good this season, there may be more than one correct answer. Take note that DeMarco Murray, who was an All-Pro last season and will now get the chance to play in Chip Kelly’s system, got zero votes. As Jimmy said the other day, the Eagles kinda have some things going for them.

Of the four writers who put pen to paper and explained their choices, three picked defensive end Fletcher Cox. No argument here. Even if Cox isn’t an All-Pro in 2015, he could very well be the Eagles’ best player and most impactful force on a potentially excellent front seven. Les Bowen feels that the 24-year-old is already playing at an All-Pro level:

It's tough sometimes, as a 3-4 DE, to get your due. Those pileups you cause, stacking up multiple blockers, other guys often get to leap in and make the tackle. Those pockets you push back, some other guy often gets the sack, or somebody gets credit for strong coverage downfield that he only had to hold a few seconds, because the quarterback couldn't hold the ball any longer.

Along the same lines, Paul Domowitch is comfortable putting Cox in some elite company on the defensive line: 

I'm going to make a bold statement here. With the exception of Houston's J.J. Watt and Miami's Ndamukong Suh, the Eagles' Fletcher Cox is the best defensive lineman in football. And truth be told, Suh needs to start looking over his shoulder.

The 6-4, 300-pound Cox is a disruptive force, a havoc-wreaker. A strong, cat-quick athletic freak. He can't be blocked by one man, and even double-teams are becoming losing propositions for opposing offenses.

A little bit off-topic, I was watching “Hard Knocks” this week and came to the conclusion that there may never be a better defensive player than J.J. Watt in my lifetime. Even if he seems like a pretty corny guy (what type of person raps that old Fort Minor song ever, much less in 2015?), it seems like Watt is literally in the backfield on every play.

Back to Cox. John Smallwood mentions the magic words… contract year (although the Eagles do control him through 2016). Still, Fletch is playing for a lot of money:

From an experience standpoint, he has had three NFL seasons to develop his craft and figure out what works. Because of the depth on the Eagles' defensive line, Cox's per-game-snaps can be managed to keep him at peak performance from September into January.

If the motivation to be considered one of the best is not enough, Cox is in a contract season. Considering the recent contracts Watt and [Robert] Quinn received, he knows what a first-team All-Pro honor could be worth.

If forced to pick anyone on the Eagles besides Cox for All-Pro honors this season, I’ll go with someone nobody on the DN staff mentioned: Jason Peters. Did they not see the holes Murray and Ryan Mathews were running through last week? 

Wednesday recap

1. We them Manz: Bennie Logan is a solid bet to win the hearts of Philly fans on and off the field, if he hasn’t already.

2. Fantasy rankings: Where do the Birds stack up fantasy-wise?

3. Jimmy’s chat: Somebody from France submitted a question. PhillyVoice is huge in France!

4. NFL Blitz rosters: Mullin uses one of the great N64 games of all-time to determine which team in the NFC East has the best skill position players. Two quick notes on Blitz: 1. Best team was the Titans (McNair, George, Dyson, Wycheck) 2. You could commit pass interference whenever you wanted.

What they’re saying

Deep Thoughts on the Eagles’ Roster Overhaul: Jenny Vrentas, The MMQB

Vrentas has noticed the depth that Chip Kelly accumulated at the skill positions:

A priority for the Eagles was not necessarily having one or two stars at the receiver or running back position, but a deep group of skill position players. They need to rotate in and out because of how much they run in the up-tempo offense, so Kelly prioritized a top-to-bottom upgrade to be able to call the same plays no matter who is in the game—something he didn’t feel like he could do in 2014.

Steelers' Martavis Bryant tops list of best NFL prospects: Aaron Schatz, ESPN Insider

The Football Outsiders founder thinks Josh Huff is a promising “prospect” (someone drafted after the 2nd round in 2012-14 who has started fewer than five games):

Look, it's a shifty YAC-producing slot receiver who went to the University of Oregon. You wouldn't be able to find space for a guy like that in the Eagles' offense, would you? It's a nice added bonus that Huff is also a strong run-blocker. The biggest hurdle for Huff might be that the Eagles would prefer to use Jordan Matthews as their slot receiver instead. That means moving Huff outside, and scouts generally thought that coming into the NFL, Huff would need more route-running work before he could play outside regularly.

Brandin Cooks, Melvin Ingram among training camp risers: Gil Brandt,

The longtime Dallas Cowboys executive likes what Jordan Matthews has been up to recently:

With his great size (6-3, 212 pounds) and outstanding speed, he's a real matchup problem. He runs hard every play; you'll never know if he's the first, second or third option, because he runs every play like he's the No. 1. His work habits are off the charts, and he has confidence to spare. Heading into last year's draft, he told me that what you end up accomplishing in your career matters much more than where you're picked. Anyone with that kind of attitude has a great chance of being successful.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann