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July 27, 2023

Fletcher Cox wants to be a good leader for Jalen Carter, Jordan Davis

The veteran defensive tackle knows what it's like to be in Carter's and Davis' situations, and wants to help them realize how great they can be.

Eagles NFL
Fletcher_Cox_2_Eagles_Camp_Frese.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox.

Fletcher Cox is 12 years in but remembers year 1 clearly. 

The high expectations that came with getting drafted 12th overall, the disastrous 4-12 season that followed and brought on the end of the Andy Reid era — it was brutal.

He was only 22 back then and just trying to establish himself as an NFL defensive tackle during the lowest point the Eagles had seen in quite some time. 

So when he sees the situations that Jalen Carter and Jordan Davis find themselves in now, with the high expectations that come along with them, he knows the feeling. 

But he remembers the guys that helped bring him along too. 

"Cullen Jenkins, Trent Cole, Darryl Tapp, all those guys," Cox recalled after the Eagles' first practice of training camp on Wednesday. "They were there for me, and that was the biggest thing every day for me. I had leadership, and that's the thing I try to do for these young guys now, be a good leader for them, and let them know that they can be great."

Because Carter and Davis both have the talent and promise to be great, and the future of the Eagles' defensive line – for this season and beyond – is banking on them realizing it. 

Like Cox more than a decade before, Carter and Davis were both high-profile DT prospects picked up by the Eagles within the top 15 of the draft's first round. 

Davis, taken 13th overall in 2022 out of Georgia, already has his rookie year under his belt, though it was hampered by a high ankle sprain suffered in late October that lingered throughout the rest of the season. When he played, the 23-year old's hulking frame –  billed at 6-foot-6 and 340 pounds – made him an effective run stopper up the middle, but his role was limited, his conditioning needed work, and the injury only slowed things down. 

Anticipating greater responsibilities in Year 2, conditioning and technique were Davis' major points of emphasis in his offseason work, and when the Eagles reported for camp earlier this week, he showed up fully healthy, ready to take on more, and even looking a little leaner too

"I was here for a little bit of time in the offseason and you could see it," Cox said. "You could see the growth, the jump from the first year to the second year. It's really good to see. He's healthy. Last year he was starting to ramp up and then he got hurt, and as a rookie, I think that kind of affected him. He was out for an amount of time, got back into the groove of things, and now he's healthy and he's flying around. You can feel his presence."

Carter, selected ninth overall from that same Georgia defense after a trade up this past April, brings speed, instinct, and a level of physicality to the defensive line that had him regarded by some as the draft class' most-talented prospect. 

But even though he's coming from a dominant, national championship-winning defense in college, of which he was a major part of, the NFL's a much different beast. Everyone's faster, smarter, and stronger, and success doesn't often translate to the pros as quickly – even if he did tear up camp's first day of drills.

So now is more about learning for Carter than anything, Cox said. After all, the 32-year old has been there himself, and remembers it clearly.

"You expect a lot," Cox said. "But the biggest thing is to get in and learn, you know? Learn the defense, learn how to practice as a pro, learn the new environment and being around, having to deal with a lot of media, and letting go of distractions. But overall, he's gonna be a really good player for us."

He has all the talent and promise to be, Davis too, and while Cox is back for at least one more year to help bridge the gap – along with fellow defensive vets Haason Reddick and Brandon Graham off the edge – the Eagles are banking part of their near and far future on both of them realizing it. 

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