Last year, it was expected. This year, Fletcher Cox admits it was a bit of a surprise.
On Tuesday, the star defensive tackle was named to his second consecutive Pro Bowl. He'll join offensive tackle Jason Peters for the all-star festivities in Orlando.
"It was definitely different," Cox said of receiving the call. "It was just surprising with the year I've had, the ups and downs, that I made it. I just kept pushing. We were trying to get this team in a better position to make it to the playoffs. At this point, we're officially eliminated from the playoffs, so I'll look forward to going to the Pro Bowl and getting a chance to compete again."
Cox's numbers jumped off the charts in 2015 when he was also named a second-team All-Pro selection for the second time in his career. He had 104 tackles, 9.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss - all personal bests. He was rewarded with a new six-year contract worthy of a franchise player.
He opened the 2016 season on fire with 14 tackles, three sacks and six quarterback hurries in the month of September as the Eagles raced out to a 3-0 start. Cox was honored as the NFC's Defensive Player of the Month.
"It meant that I didn't lose a step or didn't have the approach that, 'I've got the money. Now, I'm done.' Staying humble has been the key throughout the whole process," Cox said. "At any point, if you get too comfortable, that's when you start to lose that edge. If you have the right demeanor and the right attitude, the positive vibe will take you a long way.”
Cox's relentless energy and effort has not waned since the first month, but the team overall has struggled losing five in a row and nine of the last 11 overall. For the year, Cox has 47 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 10 tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Only four defensive tackles in the league have more sacks this year than Cox. Even though he now plays in an aggressive, upfield attacking scheme, Cox is the player who keeps opposing quarterbacks and offensive coordinators up at night. He is routinely double- and even triple-teamed on the field.
"I embrace those opportunities. Every chance I get to go out knowing that I have two sets of hands on me at all times. I just have to push through it," Cox said. "Teams are going to pay me a lot more attention than some other guys. That just opened up chances and opportunities for guys to make more plays and get more one on ones when they know teams are going to try and stop one guy."
Cox is just the fourth interior defensive lineman in franchise history to earn multiple Pro Bowl honors. The last was the late, great Jerome Brown, who was also selected in back-to-back seasons from 1991-92.
After the Eagles beat the Bills in 2015, head coach Rex Ryan was asked about Cox, who terrorized Buffalo to the tune of eight tackles, three quarterback hurries and a sack. Ryan, without prompting, invoked Brown's name.
“That 91 is a good player," said Ryan, whose father, Buddy, coached Brown in Philadelphia. "I was laughing when I saw him being compared to Jerome Brown, but I’m not laughing now. The kid is a pretty good player.”
With one more sack, Cox will tie Brown for fourth place in franchise history for most sacks by a defensive tackle.
Cox is excited at the prospects of taking his entire immediate family to the Pro Bowl after enjoying it with his mother, Melissa, last year. But first things first.
"We just want to finish these last two games," he said.
Thursday night, the Eagles host the New York Giants before ending the season with a New Year’s Day showdown with the Dallas Cowboys.