We spent so much time last week obsessing on the eighth-grade drama – Did Shady really hang up on Chip? Did DeMarco go to the headmaster’s office to complain? We may have missed the bigger story occurring in front of us.
And that story is this: As the Eagles yo-yoed around the standings this season, one player established himself among the NFL’s top ten talents. Defensive end Fletcher Cox, 25, has entered the pantheon of greatness where his name can be dropped into conversation with immortals.
“He’s the best defensive player the Eagles have drafted since Brian Dawkins,” my WIP pregame show partner Ike Reese declared Sunday. Dawkins was picked in 1996.
"I was laughing when I saw him being compared to Jerome Brown,” Bills coach Rex Ryan said after Cox destroyed his offense Sunday afternoon. “I'm not laughing now."
On Sunday, Cox had a sack and seven tackles – including two for losses. He drew half of the eight penalties committed by the Bills offensive line. He undressed Buffalo guard Richie Incognito, who certainly left the stadium wishing he could live by the adjective that is his last name.
Mostly, Cox destroyed LeSean McCoy’s homecoming. The prodigal Shady got off to a strong start, gaining 59 yards though the game’s first 21 minutes. Then Cox took over. He blew up running lanes and redirected McCoy into dead-end alleys crammed with linebackers. Shady had just 15 yards in his last 11 carries, showing his frustration once by shoving Cox – who again gave no ground.
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The highlight came in the fourth quarter. The Bills had come from 10 down and, with the score tied at 20-20, they began a drive hoping to take the lead. But on first down, Cox caught McCoy in the backfield. Shady being Shady, he spun, ceded ground and tried to turn a loss into a breakaway gain. Instead, Cox swatted him further back with a paw. McCoy slipped and Cox dived on top of him for a 10-yard loss.
Three plays later the Bills punted. And the Eagles began their game-winning drive.
Cox’s greatness Sunday was no anomaly. He was a destroyer in the win over New England a week earlier. He has been so more often than not going back to last season – even though most experts think he’d be better suited as a 4-3 tackle than the 3-4 end he plays in Billy Davis’s defense.
It’s tough for a 3-4 DE to get credit, because he’s most often creating tackles for his teammates. But Cox already has 6.5 sacks this season. Right now, he can fairly be called the NFL’s best defensive lineman this side of J.J. Watt and Ndamukong Suh.
Suh, of course, earned a six-year, $114 free agent contract last off-season. Cox’s current deal ends after 2016. The very first news we should hear from Chip Kelly this off-season – before he even hunts down that elusive franchise QB – is that Cox has been signed to a long-term extension.