Fletcher Cox Perspective

Posted: July 5th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 32 Comments »

Fletcher Cox was the 12th overall pick in 2012. The Eagles drafted him to be the under-tackle in their 4-3. His job was to fly off the ball and create havoc in the opposing backfield. Cox had 5.5 sacks, 5 TFLs and a FF in his rookie campaign. He looked like he could be a star player.

And then came the 3-4.

Chip Kelly took over the Eagles and switched from the 4-3 to the 3-4. Making matters worse, he and Bill Davis went with a 2-gap system, meaning Cox could no longer attack off the ball. His job was to engage blockers, hold his ground, find the ball and then go after it. And all of that takes place in 1.5 to 2 seconds.

Cox was drafted to attack and make plays. His ability to penetrate and be disruptive is what made him a special talent. The change in systems had to be borderline torturous for Cox. This would be the equivalent of a writer going from Mad Magazine to The National Review.

As you would expect, things were kinda bumpy. Cox got off to a slow start. He did have 2 sacks in the first 3 games, but his run defense was sloppy and his overall play was inconsistent. Cox kept working on the new techniques and got better as the season went along. Chip Kelly really praised him after the second Skins game.

“What you’re seeing out of Fletcher is we’re just watching him grow,” Kelly said. “You forget that he’s still a really, really young player. Everybody on our d-line is a young player. I think he’s getting acclimated. For him, he’s getting a change in systems, a change in coaches, and really starting to grasp and what we’re asking him to do. But I think his performance and what he did on Sunday was outstanding. He’s starting to feel more comfortable in what we’re asking him to do, and our coaches are putting hin in better positions.”

Something interesting occurred to me the other day when doing some research. Cox came into the league at a very young age. He is just 23 years old right now. He’ll turn 24 in December. Reggie White was 23 when he played his first season for the Eagles, back in 1985. White also had a December birthday (the 13th for Fletch and the 19th for Reggie).

I’m not saying that Cox is going to be the next Reggie, but his best years are ahead of him. We really don’t know how good he will be. Reggie was lucky that he got to play in systems that fit his skills. That helped him to maximize his talents. Cox isn’t as lucky, but that doesn’t mean he can’t still be an impact player.

Here are a couple of great videos from PE.com on Cox and that Skins game.

Progress report

Kelly on 2-gapping

Cox is a really gifted athlete who can still be a special player. One thing that will help him is continuity. He played in one system in 2011 (college), another in 2012 as a rookie and a completely new one in 2013. This is the first time in a while he’s had the same coaches and the same system. That should help Cox to hone his technique and become better from a technical standpoint. He has all the natural ability in the world.

If the coaches can get Cox to marry up his natural ability and his technical skills, he could become a dominant DL. That doesn’t mean it will happen right away, if at all. You have to be patient with players who are in the 2-gap 3-4. It just isn’t natural to read plays. Big guys want to fly off the ball and attack. It takes time for them to really build up 2-gap skills.

I also think part of that transition is dealing with their instincts. You can’t just “see ball, get ball”. There is a certain way things have to be done.

If Cox can take a big step forward this year, that would help the defense in a huge way.

* * * * *

Geoff Mosher wrote about the Eagles young DL this week. You can tell that Thornton, Cox and Logan have a bit of a chip on their shoulders after the playoff loss to the Saints. Those guys took a lot of blame, some of it warranted, but they remain confident in themselves and each other.

There is no shame in losing to the Saints and getting run on wasn’t all the fault of the DL. Those guys should be confident. They showed a lot of potential and could become a very good trio of players this season.

_


  • ICDogg

    “This would be the equivalent of a writer going from Mad Magazine to The National Review.”

    One magazine is a lot of silly nonsense, and the other is Mad Magazine.

    • Maggie

      I saw what you did there.

  • Mitchell

    The thing that I am most nervous about is Cox’s talent being lost in this system. Being drafted that high, I feel like he needs to become a top 3 DE in the 3-4. Obviously the scheme change isn’t his fault but it would just suck to kind of strike out on so many first round picks (Watkins, Graham). The good news is, Cox is so talented he will be good in either system. The real question is, how good?

    • GEAGLE

      Cox can do whatever he wants…the only difference is you can measure how good he is in a 4-3 by looking at the stat sheet, where as you have to watch the film to know how good he is in a 3-4…
      ..
      Then again, we don’t two gap on 3rd down. So I don’t get why everyone acts like he is handcuffed and will never get to rush the passer? When Cox and Curry line up next to each other on 3rd down it’s kill the QB time for both!

      Playing a 3-4 just affects his stats against the run

      • Mitchell

        That’s a good point about watching the tape being the difference. I guess I never really thought about that. However, in a sense, he will be handcuffed because r still has to 2-gap for at least two downs but like you said, it’s all in te tape.

        • GEAGLE

          Only difference is he doesn’t make plays on the Running backs. He occupies blockers so Kendricks can hit the RB instead of him… No big deal

    • Anders

      Cox has a great chance been a Richard Seymour for us. If he becomes that (and he was already great last year in pressures), he will be a great pick

      • Media Mike

        I’ll take that as Cox being worth the draft pick. I’m not down with less than that.

        • Anders

          So a guy has to be the 2nd best 3-4 DE over the last decade to be worth the pick?

  • SteveH

    Another thing to keep in mind is that being a great 3-4 DE doesn’t necessarily putting up 10 sacks a year. It’s difficult to measure great 3-4 Dline play with stats, since clogging up running lanes or successfully taking on double teams aren’t measured.

    For example, many would say Haloti Ngata is one of the best and most feared 3-4 DL in the NFL since he came into the league, but in 7 seasons he has 23.5 sacks, with a season high of 5.5.

  • GEAGLE

    Cox is going to be a beast this year…down the stretch last year, he was playing some really good ball.

    Don’t really get the doom and gloom scheme change Talk. When it’s time to rush the passer cox doesn’t two gap, he gets after the QB when we are in our nickel. Now it’s true that he does need time to get accustomed to the new techniques, but I think this will be his break out year. The notion that he is handcuffed by the scheme change is bogus. The only thing affected by the scheme change is his tackle for loss numbers. Instead of exploding into the backfield to crush a running back, he takes up the blockers so Kendrick can get the tackle for loss…. When it’s time to rush the passer, all his natural talent gets unleashed. I saw him two gap really well down the stretch last year. I think he has the hang of it and he will explode out the gate this year like gang busters. Cox/Kendrick 2014 eagles defensive co MVPs

    3rd down, Cox and Curry lining up as the DTs on a 4man line will form a much improved pass rush…

  • GEAGLE

    If all cox did was two gap… You wouldn’t have gotten to enjoy all those fun, twists and stunts you see on 3rd down… Switch to the 3-4 on first and second down is so exaggerated. Only difference is the DT tackles the RB in 4-3 and the LB tackles the RB in the 3-4…. When it’s time to pass rush, do people actually think Cox isn’t trying to murder the QB every single time?

    We don’t play a 3-4 on 3rd down

    I think the talk of the switch of defense is so exaggerated. while it does take time to adjust to the switch, the notion that we aren’t going to utilize one of our most talented defenders talents is silly. Makes no difference which defense we run, Cox will play either at a high level and he will be one of the best interior pass rushers in the NFL…no matter how you want to label our scheme

    • anon

      Yes but he’s just plugging gaps on 2/3 downs now instead of getting “making plays”. To my mind it’s a waste of talent for Cox (not kelly, i’m sure Cox can be a fine 2-gapper). If Cox loves the team he’ll stay, but i wouldn’t pay him a ton of $$ if I’m Roseman b/c (1) he’ll never put up stats, (2) he’s replaceable by a strong guy with long arms and (3) $$ goes to a LBs in a 3-4, as it should.

      • GEAGLE

        PFF ranked him as the second best 3-4DE at generating pressure, and he did it, his first year playing a 3-4

      • Jernst

        This is my concern as well.

  • Baloophi

    “The Fletcher Cox Perspective” could also be the name of a controversial physics theory or a 60′s era piece of science fiction.

  • GEAGLE

    Wow Josh Gordon arrested for DUI…what a waste. This kid will never get back on the field. Same with Blacmon is allegedly in rehab but hasn’t been in contact with the team. Really sucks for the game to get cheated of talents like this because they are too stupid to conduct themselves like normal human beings… Funny how Josh Gordon did all that campaigning for Johnny football, browns got him, and Gordon will never be available to Manziel….
    ..
    You really need to watch who you invest a draft pick into and who you pay big bucks to. Injuries decimate rosters enough as it is, can’t also be worried about losing players due to being poor excuse for human beings..In terms of talent and ability Josh is the closest thing to Megatron…only Calvin is a class act, and Josh is a fool

    • anon

      They are barely paying Gordon at all, supplemental draft pick. Blackmon is different. Gordon / Blackmon will play again if they can get clean – talent, like money, wins over everything.

      It’s sad though really — both are kissing away probably $30m in career dollars considering both could be top 5 [young] WRs if they had any dedication to the game. We say a lot about Djax but thankfully he never had those issues.

      • D3FB

        Cleveland did forfeit pick 39 in the 2013 draft to take Gordon. The player they took there very likely would have been a starter. Geno, Robert Woods, Kiko, Eddie Lacy,

  • Media Mike

    This is a total aside, but if anybody here can get on the DFW Sports news article about Kempski’s tweet apology it would be helpful to call out the Brandon Ford tampon who had a very unsafe level of commentary about the Eagles and trophies.

  • GEAGLE

    PFF ranks Cox as the second rated 3-4DE at generating pressure last year. Not bad for a 22yr old kids first year in a defense he isn’t allegedly best suited to play

    • anon

      so a 4-3 attacking DL is better at getting pressure than 3-4 lineman? I’d hope so. Just like I’d hope a 4-3 DE would be a better pass rusher than a 3-4 ROLB.

    • Jernst

      For sure…Cox is a beast athlete that can play in any system and he’ll most likely excel at either one. He’s a damn good 3-4 DE. The real question, the unknown, is would he be an even better 4-3 3-tech DT or even DE? He rated very high at getting pressure when compared to other 3-4 DE’s, I’d be interested to see how his pass rush stats look if you included 4-3 DL as well. Maybe he’s just as high and there’s literally no difference. Maybe he just ranks high because there’s not many 3-4 DE’s that get pressure consistently. I don’t know. I’d need a little more context.

      Either way, I’m stoked to have Cox as our DE and hopefully he’ll be here for years and years to come terrorizing QBs.

  • Dominik

    Best hope for Cox is he’ll be our Justin Smith. We just need that Aldon Smith OLB (without the headaches, of course) who gets the sacks with the room that is created for him.

    Hopefully Marcus Smith can turn out to be that guy. A lot of Smiths in one post. :)

  • Jernst

    It’s a shame for Cox that we moved to the 3-4 2 gap because he really does have the perfect skill set to dominate as a 3 tech DT in a 4-3 alignment. But, even if he doesn’t become dominant in the 3-4 and instead is just a really good 3-4 end that gives us 4-6 sacks per year (which I think is reasonable) and holds his point of attack in the run game, then I’m happy. And, it’s not like I feel like we wasted the draft pick like so many other instances where there were clearly better players available and we took a bust. This isn’t a situation like when we drafted Graham with Earl Thomas on the board. Look at the 2012 draft there’s not many players chosen after Cox that you’d even consider trading for straight up.

    Michael Floyd
    Michael Brockers
    Bruce Irvin
    Quintin Coples
    Dre Kirkpatrick
    Melvin Ingram
    Shea McClellen
    Kendall Wright
    Chandler Jones
    Brandon Weeden
    Riley Reiff
    David DeCastro
    Dont’e Hightower
    Whitney Mercilus
    Kevin Zeitler

    Those are the next 15 players drafted after Cox. Dontari Poe was drafted the pick right before Cox. I could see an argument that he’d be an ideal 3-4 NT. But, we didn’t have a chance at him. Otherwise, there’s some decent and even downright good names on that list, but no one that blows me away or that I’m really upset we didn’t select.

    Kendricks is the one that, while I really do have high hopes for, I really want to see take the next step. Bobby Wagner was drafted one slot after him, Zach Brown was taken 6 slots after Kendricks and Lavante David was taken 12 spots after him. Those are 3 fairly good LBs that we passed for Michael. I have faith that he started to put it together in the second half of last year. But, I really want to see him continue being the playmaker that we drafted him to be.

    • GEAGLE

      Two gaping only impacts run defense. The switch to a 3-4 has zero impact on Cox pass Rush. It’s one of the biggest bullshit misnomers that the media created. If cox was two gapping on passing downs, than you would never see all those twists and stunts he used all of last year…we are usually in a 4 man line in pass rushing situations,..when the QB drops back to pass, Cox is in kill the QB model Dude had a nice amount of QB hurries last year… This crap that this scheme hinders cox in any way as a pass rusher is bogus….

      The only difference is that when the ball gets handed to a running back, Cox no longer gets to shoot the gap and crush the running back. Now he has to engage the OL and keep them occupied so the LinebCkers are free to blast the running back….

      When people talk about Cox’s ability that we are allegedly stunting with the scheme change, the ability they rave about is his rare pass rush ability for an interior DL…it’s such an uneducated load of crap that we are hampering Cox special talents. His special talents are as a pass rusher, and when the QB drops back to throw, Cox isn’t two gapping, he is trying to kill the QB…

      No one plays a 3-4 against the pass. Cox is still rushing the passer the same exact way as he was under Andy Reid..heck, most of the time on passing downs we are in a 4 man line anyway…I would hope that the media isn’t dumb enough to suggest that we are two gapping when they see us line up in a 4man line?

      This notion that we have a special talent and our coach is wasting his ability is a joke. Pass rush is the most valued skill on defense, you can bet that our coaches aren’t going to hinder that pass rush ability…I don’t even understand…like does the media not realize how dumb they sound when they say crap like this? For two years we have allegedly been wasting Cox ability lol..yet he is top of his position in terms off pass rush pressure, and he rushes the passer in the same role as when Andy was here

      Now it’s a reasonable question with Curry… But cox body is suited to do whatever the hell you need him to. 4-3, 2 gap, 4-3DE..he can do anything you need him to do at a high level, just give him a year to get comfortable doing what you ask of him…..Curry isn’t 305lbs, so ATleast I understand why people question if we are wasting his ability in this scheme….but Cox is a non issue

      • Jernst

        2 gaping? Is that some sort of exotic porn genre? Sorry, I kid…I definitely understand and appreciate what you say about 2-gapping in the 3-4. And, you’re absolutely right, in known passing situations, nickle, dime and most 3rd downs we are most assuredly not 2-gapping very often.

        Last year, however, teams passed 49.7% on first down, 57.6% of the time on 2nd down. So there are a substantial amount of plays in any given game where a team passes against our base 3-4 and/or passes while we ask our DL to 2-gap. And, play action passing will definitely have a much different effect on 2-gapping DL than the complete lack of any assignment other than kill that we saw in the wide-9.

        Thank being said, you’re absolutely right that the change is probably overblown. But, it is not inconsequential. I’ve seen quite a few disruptive 3 tech DTs (like Sapp, the 3 tech prototype) that were not nearly as effective in other schemes. Cox, I feel, is absurdly talented and physically gifted enough to excel in both. My fear though is that, just like CBs get paid the big bucks for INTs, DL get paid the big bucks for sacks. If Cox feels he’s a 4-5 sack guy in the 3-4 and an 8-10 sack guy in a 4-3 he might choose to move to a place that will get him paid. If he turns into Justin Smith or JJ Watt it’s all moot. But, if he’s above average in the 3-4 and wants to go make plays and hit home runs and get huge paychecks and thinks he can do that in the 4-3 then we might not be able to retain him and that would be a bummer.

        Let’s just hope this all becomes a moot discussion by him taking the league by storm this year and becoming a top 3 3-4 DE/DT mentioned in the same breath with Watt and Smith.

    • D3FB

      Maybe DeCastro, but that’s just because Decastro is the best guard I’ve ever scouted.

  • Jernst

    The other concern I have with Cox is that if he continues to be a very good but not so much dominant 3-4 DE and isn’t putting up the stats that he could in a 4-3, will he choose to leave in FA and get to a team that will showcase his unique skill set? I’m not sure what the difference is, but maybe one of you guys knows the difference in salary for a top 10 3-4 DE vs a top level 4-3 DT. If he becomes a force in the 3-4 I think he stays and we pay him appropriately. If his play plateaus and he’s a really good 3-4 DE that doesn’t take over games the way a JJ Watt does, I could easily see him leaving and us having to replace him in 2 years which would be a shame to lose a talent like his.

  • ACViking

    Re: Reggie White v. Fletcher Cox

    T-Law:

    White and Cox in the same sentence? That’s setting the bar awfully high — by any measure.

    White played a 2-gap 34 DE in Marion Campbell’s defense when he joined the Eagles in Game 4 of the ’85 season.

    His first start was against the Giants, and he had 2.5 sacks. White finished his rookie season with 13 sacks in just 13 games, again, as a 3-4 DE.

    [Footnote about that '85 Eagles team. RDE Greg Brown also had 13 sacks, following a 16-sack season in '84 as a 34 DE. Marion Campbell was truly a defensive genius. Brown was traded by Buddy Ryan to the Falcons after the
    '86 season for former DT Mike Pitts, the Falcons 1st Rd pick in '83.]
    ______________

    I think White was athletic enough to play TE. I don’t see Cox as that class of athlete. We’d have seen it in college, I think.

    White — like Lawrence Taylor — was a physical freak . . . elite even among the NFL’s HOFers.

    Not to say Cox isn’t an athletic *D-lineman*. Just not in the class — or even the same building — as White.

    On the other hand, I’ve always thought Cox was talented enough to be a reach Richard Seymour-status.

    Thought that back late in the 2012 season . . . when I posted a comment during the Reid death-spiral suggesting the Eagles may become a 3-4 team in 2013 — which prompted you (T-Law) to write, maybe, your funniest comment about how the Eagles going to a 3-4 might be the straw that sends you over the edge.

    • Jernst

      Yea…Cox definitely has some elite traits. Just look at his 3-cone and 40 yard dash times. http://mockdraftable.com/player/58/. The man is quick as a cat. The shocking thing is that even though he has the quickness and agility to move like that he doesn’t appear (at least by combine testing) to possess decent lower body explosion as seen by his broad jump and vertical jump. He’s pretty low there and that’s being compared against DTs. By any measure a 26 inch vertical is pretty pedestrian, even for a 300 pound man. Hopefully, our sports science will get him not just stronger as in the amount of weight he can squat but stronger in his ability to explode and generate a lot of force in a short time which is what things like vertical and broad jump measure. But, you’re right there’s no comparison to someone like Reggie who looked like he was a professional athlete playing against high school kids at times. That type of rare physical skill and natural ability only comes around once in a generation.

    • Anders

      http://mockdraftable.com/player/58/

      Fletcher Cox 3 cone and 40 yard are among the very best EVER (at least recorded since 99).

      If Cox was still playing as a pure 3 tech in a 4-3, I bet we would already be talking about him along side White and Jerome Brown.

      One thing to note comparing White and LT with any modern day players is the evolving of the NFL game.

      On one hand, back in the 80′s there wasnt many 3 step or shutgun snaps, as many teams still used a lot of 5 and even 7 step drops, which meant the pass rusher had more time to get to the QB, but pass rushers now a day have the luxury of playing many more pass rushing snaps.