How exactly can a first-round pick make a major early impact and still manage to fly under the radar? That's the case for Fletcher Cox, and there seem to be a few reasons for the relative lack of attention given to his impressive start. For one, Cox is one of three rookies playing extensively on defense, and Mychal Kendricks and Brandon Boykin tend to make the flashier plays at linebacker and cornerback respectively.
The nature of Cox's position, battling in the trenches at defensive tackle, means that his impact is often hard to gauge. But start with the trust he's already earned from the coaches. Cox played 50 snaps during last week's win over the Baltimore Ravens, good for 72 percent of the defensive snaps - the most snaps of any defensive lineman in that game. Since Jim Washburn took over the Eagles' defensive line in 2011 and brought with him a heavy rotation along the defensive line, a defensive tackle has played in more than 72 percent of the team's snaps only twice.
But what of the impact that Cox is making during those snaps? Check out this illuminating breakdown of just how impressive Cox was last week. With such an accelerated learning curve already, the scary thought for the rest of the league has to be what's next for the Mississippi State product.
"He's grown fundamentally, understanding to be able to rush and on the way to rushing the quarterback also being able to play the run," said defensive coordinator Juan Castillo. "I think that's where he's grown. He's a talented kid. He played in a good division and all of those things, but where he's grown is the game was never too big for him. It's just been the fundamentals. (Washburn) has been working hard with him, but it's the fundamentals of being able to rush the passer but at the same time play the run on the way to the quarterback."
"I think he's basically the man that everybody thought he was going to be coming out," said Brandon Graham, himself a first-round pick. "He's very mature for his age, somebody who's really working hard to do everything right. Shoot, I feel like the sky's the limit for him. He can only get better, because that boy got it."
As for the relative obscurity in which he's excelled thus far, Cox is happy to remain just a part of the defensive whole.
"You have to credit everybody around you," said Cox. "I'm not a selfish person, so I credit everybody around me. My time will come to make big plays."
If you watch close enough, that time has already come.
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