This has been a big week for Fletcher Cox, but you wouldn't know it from talking to the soft-spoken 24-year old.
Selected 12th-overall in the 2012 Draft, Cox converted from defensive tackle to defensive end in 2013 when the Eagles switched from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4. And in the two-plus years since, he's established himself as one of the premier players at his position, earning praise from the Eagles' coaching staff, his teammates, and the team's fans. But outside of Philadelphia, the 300-pounder out of Mississippi State is painfully underrated.
Last season, he notched 48 tackles and four sacks, but more important than his raw numbers was his ability to draw double teams and free up his teammates to penetrate the backfield. Cox was one of the most valuable defensive players in the league last season, but despite earning heaps of postseason praise from more meticulous outlets like Pro Football Focus, his name was hardly mentioned at all when it came to more mainstream accolades, such as Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors.
But after logging six tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery in Sunday's 39-17 win over New Orleans, he finally garnered some much-deserved national attention. Cox was named the NFC's Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts, and while one might have expected his reaction to have been equal parts excitement and relief, he hardly seemed to acknowledge the award at all when the news came down on Wednesday.
When asked about the honor, he redirected the majority of the credit towards his teammates – particularly his fellow defensive linemen and the team's defensive backs – for doing their jobs and freeing him up to make plays in the Saints' backfield.
"I felt like without those guys on the back end and the guys pushing the middle, none of that stuff would have happened," he said before being asked about his level of frustration about so often flying under the radar nationally. "I don't get frustrated. I control what I can control, and I can't control those kinds of things. I'm here to play football and be a great teammates, and that's what wins."
But while Cox seemed reticent to take credit for his historically well-rounded performance, the first of its kind for an Eagles player, his teammates were more than happy to sing his praises.
"It's about time," said defensive tackle Bennie Logan, when asked about his teammate's Defensive Player of the Week award. "The guy's been dominating for the past two years and he's never gotten recognition… He means a lot to our defense, the havoc he causes, the turnovers he creates, he's a force to be reckoned with every time he's on the field."
Jordan Hicks hasn't been around long – five games to be exact, but the rookie linebacker is already astonished by what he's seen from Cox so far.
"You just sit there and watch the film, and you're in awe of some of the plays he makes," Hicks said, shaking his in disbelief. "The sack he got on Drew Brees with the forced fumble and fumble recovery, he threw his guy off of him, accelerated towards Drew Brees, got the ball out, got up, got the ball… You see everything he's good at in one play right there."
But maybe the fact that Cox's dominant play is so often overlooked affords the fourth-year end an unanticipated advantage. The more he continues to make waves and take over games the way he did on Sunday, the more opposing offensive coordinators will look to throw extra protection his way in an effort to slow him down. Just ask linebacker Connor Barwin, who led the Eagles with 14.5 sacks last season. He notched three sacks in a single game one two separate occasions in 2014, but both instances were followed up by contests in which he was held sackless.
"Unfortunately, the reality is when you put up a couple multi-sack games, then you get the attention you deserve," Barwin said. "He's been a special player ever since I've been here… I don't need to run his campaign anymore. It's going to happen for itself."
After taking advantage of rookie first-round selection Andrus Peat, who started at left tackle for the Saints in Week 5 due to injury, Cox will look to do the same against another rookie selected just four spots higher, Ereck Flowers, when the Eagles take on the Giants on Sunday.
But you can expect New York to send help in his direction in order to keep the Pro-Bowl hopeful out of the Giants' backfield and Eli Manning off the turf. And if that happens, you can expect Cox to happily eat up blockers while his teammates make plays in the backfield, because whether it's him in on a sack or it's Logan or Barwin, he'll just be happy to see the quarterback off his feet and in the dirt.