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Defense Gets Tougher Up Middle

That the Eagles selected Fletcher Cox in Round 1 of the 2012 NFL draft was not a surprise. That they only had to trade from the 15th spot to the 12th hole, at the price of the 15th pick, a fourth-round selection (114 overall) and a sixth-round pick (172 overall), was pretty darn shocking.

The pre-draft chatter, right up until the 8 p.m. first pick, was that Cox was a hot commodity in the first round, that he could go as high as the fifth pick in the first round.

But you have to give Howie Roseman credit here. He wasn't going to trade into the top 10 because, well, the price was prohibitive and because he had the right feel for what could happen. And the guy that the Eagles wanted all along, and everybody said so, was there at No. 12.

And so the Eagles swooped in very quickly and got him.

The Eagles did their homework on Cox. They scouted him, they investigated him, they got to know him, and they fell for him. Hard. It wasn't a make-or-break deal to draft Cox, but he was clearly the object of the team's affection.

"He took my breath away," said defensive line coach Jim Washburn, who visted with Cox in Mississippi and worked him, took him out to dinner and spent nearly three hours talking about hunting and football and life in general.

Washburn is not a man to go overboard on superlatives. He believes in hard work and discipline and aggressiveness. He wants players who love the game and who play physical football and who are just nasty, violent men between the sidelines.

Welcome to Philadelphia, Fletcher Cox.

Now, of course, the question is how quickly Cox fits in and that is going to be played out in the summer and into the fall. He jumps into a veteran rotation that includes Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson, as well as a recovering Antonio Dixon and Derek Landri. It is a high-motor group,a hard-working, lunch-pail gang of veterans. There is no better role model for Cox than Jenkins, who has climbed the NFL ladder the hard way. He is a superb player because his work ethic matches his talent level, and now he has a young pup who has a world of ability to work with, to nurture and to advance quickly into the tackle picture.

It was a perfect night for the Eagles, in retrospect. They retained their second-round draft picks -- they pick 46th and 51st overall in the second round -- and they gained some toughness and explosiveness up the middle of the defense.

Suddenly, the Eagles have a really, really impressive front seven with the additions of middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans and Cox. The Eagles registered 50 sacks last year, and 46 of them came from the defensive line. Still, Washburn found a great toy under the tree on the first night of this draft.

What's to come? More defense, I think. The Eagles can go in any number of directions in the second round -- the second and third rounds are conducted on Friday night -- and I would suspect that defense is the primary area to address. They have seven draft picks remaining and plenty of ammunition to move around. And you know that Andy Reid and Roseman are going to move around.

What is the need on offense? We've talked about the red zone and adding a big target. We've talked about depth along the offensive line. Safety is a position to keep an eye on, but remember that veteran Yeremiah Bell remains an unrestricted free agent should the Eagles feel the need to add to the deep secondary.

Stayed tuned. It's going to be a wild ride. It always is. The Eagles showed they have the finger on the pulse of the draft, scoring big with Fletcher Cox in the first night.


  • The Eagles will bring Cox into the NovaCare Complex on Friday afternoon and we will have the press conference live on
  • As soon as Cox was drafted, quarterback Michael Vick, offensive guard Evan Mathis and linebacker Jamar Chaney sent out congratulatory Tweets. Chaney, of course, was Cox' teammate at Mississippi State. Chaney thinks Cox will thrive with Washburn. "He and our d line coach at Mississippi State are very similar," said Chaney. "They speak to players the same way."
  • I don't think the Eagles ever considered trading up into the top 10. The cost was awfully high. Roseman waited until the perfect time to make a trade. The Eagles have taken five defensive linemen in their first top 15 picks in the Andy Reid era -- Corey Simon, Jerome McDougle, Brodrick Bunkley, Brandon Graham and now Cox. Mike Patterson is another first-round draft pick defensive lineman.
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