It wasn't an easy debut season for Fletcher Cox.
First, the 12th overall pick in last year's NFL draft saw his best friend and cousin die in a tragic car accident. Then, Cox had to adjust to two different defensive line coaches (and two defensive coordinators), while fighting for snaps on a crowded defensive line, all while enduring the usual rigors of being an NFL rookie.
"It's just part of maturing and growing up," Cox said of the experience. "Being thousands of miles away from home, it's just part of growing up."
Somehow Cox made it work. As the season progressed, he emerged as one of the bright spots on a bad defense. Cox finished with 5.5 sacks and established himself as a building block for the Eagles.
"I think I played pretty good, but I know I got a long way to go to be a great player in this league," Cox said. "Going back and evaluating myself, I know I have a long way to go."
There's no doubt that Cox will start in 2013. The question is, at what position? The Eagles are shifting to a 3-4 defense, or at least some form of it. At last week's spring practices Cox was lining up all over the field. He still isn't sure where his final spot will be.
"They tell us that nothing is written down right now. I don't know where I would play. I'm all over the place," Cox said.
The only thing Cox does know for sure is that these aren't Andy Reid's Eagles. On the field, the practices have been much quicker, similar to his days at Mississippi State. Off the field, there's been a focus on proper nutrition and sleeping patterns.
"It's real different," Cox said. "It reminds me of a year ago, when I was in college, you know, how fast everything goes, what the tempo is, just having fun and enjoying everything — all the energy out here."
The energy, as evidenced by loud dance music being pumped into the practice field at the NovaCare Complex, will translate itself for real in the Eagles' season opener — Sept. 9 at Washington.