Experience: 2 years
College: Mississippi State
Acquired: Selected in the first round of the 2012 draft (12th overall)
In his rookie season, Fletcher Cox lived up to his status as the No. 12 pick of the 2012 NFL Draft.
The Eagles traded up three spots to grab him, and Cox rewarded the Eagles for their move by tying for the team lead with 5.5 sacks while starting in nine games. In 2013, Cox became a full-time starter for the Eagles and, although his sack total dropped, his production greatly increased in his second NFL season.
Cox finished 2013 with three sacks, a modest number that ranked fifth on the team. But after making the switch from a 4-3 defensive tackle to a 3-4 defensive end, Cox improved his game in almost every aspect. His tackle numbers increased, and he proved to be the Eagles most consistent defensive lineman when it came to rushing the quarterback.
Chip Kelly praised Cox for the way that he quickly adapted in the Eagles new defensive scheme, but the recognition of the Mississippi State product's outstanding play also came at the national level. Robert Mays of Grantland.com wrote of Cox:
"The 12th overall pick in last year's draft, Cox was a rotational player on a terrible Eagles defense last season. This year, as Philly has turned to a scheme with multiple fronts that asks the defensive linemen to do a little bit of everything, Cox has developed into a Pro Bowl–caliber player. Always considered an athletic marvel, his second year in the league has brought enough refinement and experience to turn him into a complete — and occasionally dominant — defensive lineman."
It is often said that NFL players make the biggest jump of their careers between their first and second seasons. Though Cox did improve as a player in that time, Eagles fans will now get to see how much better Cox can be go from year one to year two in the same defensive system.
Top Plays of the Year
Cox had terrific performances against the Chiefs and Buccaneers in 2013, but his biggest impact came in the Week 11 matchup against Washington. As the Eagles sought to sweep their division rival, Cox came up with his two best plays of the season to help lead the Eagles to a 24-16 win.
With the Eagles leading 14-0, Washington drove deep into Eagles territory in the second quarter. On a second-and-goal play from the 5-yard line, linebacker Connor Barwin hit quarterback Robert Griffin III as he was throwing. The ball popped up in the air, and Cox came down with it. Though it could have been ruled an interception (which would have been the first of his career), the fumble recovery brought the momentum back to the Eagles side.
Later in the game, Washington trailed by eight, but had the ball late in the game. On a third-and-1 play from inside the Eagles' 20-yard line, Cox came right up the middle to pressure Griffin, which resulted in the game-clinching interception by cornerback Brandon Boykin.
Cox led the Eagles with 21 quarterback pressures this season. He finished 2013 with three sacks, but as Chip Kelly said, sometimes it's the hurries that are more important to a play then whoever actually brought down the quarterback. According to Pro Football Focus, Cox's 39 quarterback hurries ranked second in the NFL among all 3-4 defensive ends.