September 10, 2018
Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox wants to be the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year, and there was something about him that just felt different this offseason. He looks like a player in his prime who is positioned to have the best season of his already great career.
"Fletcher is a player that -- tremendous, tremendous player," said Doug Pederson on Friday. "I think with the additions of Haloti Ngata, Michael Bennett, Derek Barnett in his second year, Chris Long, I think having everybody on that D-line, on that rotating basis, keeps guys fresh and keeps a little pressure off of Fletcher just a little bit. He's a strong, powerful guy, and he took Mack, the center, one time and got up under his shoulder pad on a move and got after the passer, and very disruptive in the pocket. Those are things that you like to see from your top players.
"And so he's just a big, big part of our defensive line, a valuable part of the team, and for the team to elect him captain I think just shows where he is in his career."
On Thursday night against the Atlanta Falcons, Cox was a menace in the middle of the Eagles' defense. The following is video of Cox's most disruptive moments, of which there were many, followed by analysis thereafter.
• (0:03) Cox defeats the RG’s block, hustles downfield and gets in on the tackle.
• (0:11) RT goes low and tries to get Cox off of his feet. Cox stays on his feet, fills the hole, and Devonta Freeman runs into a brick wall.
• (0:17) The Falcons try a screen to Cox’s side, which he sniffs out. The change of direction Cox displays here is not in any way normal for a 300-pound man. He keeps Freeman in front of him until help arrives, resulting in a loss of 7. Cox then turns to the Atlanta sideline and wags his finger like Jalen Mills.
• (0:26) On play action, Cox is getting doubled. He chucks the RG off of him, then goes around the RT to the outside and gets a hit on Matt Ryan.
• (0:31) Cox is doubled, leaving one-on-ones across the board for the Eagles’ other four rushers on the play. Chances are at least one rusher is going to defeat his block, which Jordan Hicks does, as he’s able to get to Ryan by plowing through Freeman.
• (0:40) The RG does a decent enough job making Cox take a wider rush to the QB, but Cox still makes Ryan feel enough pressure to step away from him in the pocket.
• (0:45) Here Cox is being doubled on a run to his side. The RG is trying to block Cox and then get to the second level to pick up Kamu Grugier-Hill (54). However, not only does the Falcons’ double-team get no push on Cox whatsoever, but watch Cox’s left arm on the RG, which is keeping the RG from getting up to Grugier-Hill. Instead, Grugier-Hill is able to meet the contact on the Falcons’ side of the line of scrimmage, and that run is going nowhere.
• (0:51) If you can’t block him, dive at his legs while he’s already engaged with another blocker. 15-yard clipping penalty and a drive killer.
• (0:57) Cox delivers a jolt with his signature club move to the center, who is knocked off-balance, giving Cox a path to hit the quarterback. The center here is Alex Mack, a five-time Pro Bowler, who does a great job recovering from this jolt to at least stay with Cox to some degree. Most centers are not recovering like Mack did here, and Cox still got a hit on the QB.
• (1:03) Here Cox just dusts the Pro Bowler Mack with speed. Trying to block Cox one-on-one after snapping the ball is a near-impossible assignment for a center, and I would imagine that Jim Schwartz is going to try to find ways to get that type of matchup for Cox in games going forward. Teams around the league are going to have to figure out how to stop it. (To note, this sack was negated by a Derek Barnett offsides penalty.)
• (1:10) This is sort of a slow-developing play, but Cox continues to push the pocket. With nowhere to go, Chris Long gets the sack. (Cox didn’t get credit for a half-sack here, though he probably should have.)
• (1:18) Cox (and Jordan Hicks) sniff out another screen, causing Ryan to just throw the ball in the dirt.
• (1:25) Cox just destroys the LG here, causing the RB to have to help, while Long and Hicks clean up on the sack.
• (1:33) Cox swings and misses on his club move, but still pushes the pocket and gets the sack. This may not have even been one of Cox’s five best pass rushes on the night, and he still got to the QB.
• (1:39) One last time, on 3rd and Goal on the Falcons' final drive, R.I.P. Alex Mack, and subsequently, Matt Ryan.
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