After being one of the biggest Pro Bowl snubs in recent Eagles history last season, Fletcher Cox's unstoppable play has been undeniable this season, and as a result, the Eagles' defensive end has earned his first career Pro Bowl roster spot.
Defensive coordinator Bill Davis spoke earlier this year about how he hoped Cox had finally gained the national recognition that he deserved for his stellar play over the past two seasons. That recognition has finally resulted in Pro Bowl honors.
"It feels really great," Cox said in a phone interview after hearing the news. "I told myself before the season started that I needed to be better than last year. I had to make the whole world know and not just the local people. It all paid off."
Cox's monstrous 2014 season earned him second-team All-Pro honors, but he was snubbed from the Pro Bowl. This year, he set out to make sure that wouldn't happen again.
"It was definitely a personal goal for me," Cox said. "Instead of being a second-team All-Pro from last year, I wanted to be first-team All-Pro and just continue to succeed."
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For Cox, one of the biggest reasons why he's been able to play at such a high level this season is because he's been able to stay clear from all outside distractions and focus solely on becoming the best player that he can be.
"I really don't pay attention to it," Cox said. "I don't read up on myself. I don't try to get in conflicts or none of that. I think that's probably gotten me to where I am now, not reading up on this stuff about how great of a player I am and all of that different stuff. I think that kind of distracts you and the main thing about it is just going out and being consistent."
Last season, Cox recorded seven tackles for loss and tallied four sacks, and while a lot of what he did best didn't show up as numbers in the box score, Cox set out to improve certain aspects of his game heading into his fourth season.
"I had to (improve my pass-rushing skills) because of the position that I play," Cox explained. "It's really hard for guys in that two-gap scheme to get a lot of sacks. You have to sacrifice a lot of things on first and second down, but then on third down you've got to go after it and get to the quarterback because you don't get many more chances."
Cox leads the Eagles with 14.5 tackles for loss at this point in the season, and he's already set a new career best with 7.5 sacks. Against the Saints in Week 5, he became the first Eagle ever and first NFL player since 2007 to record three sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery in a game, winning NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his efforts.
The Pro Bowl recognition has some added meaning for Cox has well. When his older brother Shaddrick passed away in the offseason, Cox dedicated his 2015 season to his brother's memory. Cox has certainly lived up to his promise, as his fourth season in the NFL has been the best of his professional career.
"I'm going to continue to play, and I know he's smiling down right now," Cox said. "He's smiling on me and smiling on this great news with the family being here in town. It's great and I know he's smiling over us and watching."
In the past, Cox has heard from teammates about how he deserved Pro Bowl recognition and how he should keep his head down. He heard from center Jason Kelce and linebacker Connor Barwin about what life at the Pro Bowl is like. Now, finally, Cox will be the one who can tell those stories.
"I think it's probably one of the biggest steps in my career," Cox said. "For the year I've had, from January until now, I think that it's a big step in my career and from now on I just have to stay humble and just keep pushing myself to be the best."