Philadelphia Eagles News

Fletcher Cox: 'We have to be the group that leads this team'

Once again, the Eagles' defensive line looks to be as talented and deep as any unit in the NFL.

The unit boasts Pro Bowlers, All-Pros, Super Bowl Champions, veterans with valued experience, and young up-and-comers hungry for stardom.

However, there are still questions surrounding the group heading into the 2020 season. For starters, the unit has its third position coach in as many years in Matt Burke. There is some new blood in the form of defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, who will need time to jell with his new teammates.

And then there are injuries. Oh, those pesky injuries. In the last two seasons, injuries have derailed the depth along the defensive line. In 2018, defensive end Brandon Graham needed multiple games to round into shape after offseason ankle surgery. Around the time Graham finally got back to his usual self, fellow defensive end Derek Barnett suffered a season-ending injury.

In 2019, the unit's most decorated player, Fletcher Cox, also needed multiple games to get back his usual dominance, but once that happened, fellow defensive tackles Malik Jackson and Hassan Ridgeway were already lost for the season.

With that said, if everything comes together the way it should, the defensive line should once again be a strength for the Eagles.

"It's a really good group," Cox told reporters Wednesday. "I'm just really looking forward to getting back to football with those guys."

Training Camp is where some of the questions surrounding the defensive will begin to be answered. Such as having yet another coach in Burke. With a new coach comes some different philosophies and expectations. Regardless of what Burke brings to the table, Cox's main goal is to go out on the field and get it done.

"Right now, we're just going through some normal football stuff, talking some technique stuff, how he wants stuff done his way, and I just got to get it done," he said.

"I just got to be able to adjust on the fly," he later added.

Part of Burke's job will also be figuring out the rotation up front. When there is so much talent among the group, it can be tough to divvy up enough snaps to satisfy everyone. Cox told reporters Wednesday that he believes that rotation will work and work in the Eagles' favor come game time.

Someone Cox figures to be lining up next to quite a bit in the rotation is Hargrave, who signed with the Eagles as a free agent during the offseason after spending his first four seasons in Pittsburgh.

Cox admitted Wednesday that will take time and a lot of reps to get on the same page with Hargrave, but was optimistic once it does happen, it will pay dividends for the Eagles' defense.

"I think the main thing for him is going out, playing fast, learning the defense, which he's doing a really good job at catching on the things that we do," Cox said of Hargrave.

Another player Cox is looking forward to lining up next to is Barnett. After Barnett was taken in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, fans and pundits have been waiting for his breakout season. There have been glimpses, but Cox believes Barnett is poised for a big season in 2020 after working "his butt off" during the offseason.

In Cox's mind, Barnett is out to prove something this season, as is the rest of the defensive line. Can the unit stay healthy, and if it does, can it be the disruptive force Eagles fans are hoping for? Cox is confident that their hopes will come to fruition.

"The defensive line, we have to be the group that leads this team, so we're looking forward to it," Cox said.

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