NFC East Draft: Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles Both Need DT Fletcher Cox

James DudkoFeatured ColumnistApril 4, 2012

STARKVILLE, MS - NOVEMBER 12:  quarterback AJ McCarron #10 of the Alabama Crimson Tide scrambles away from pressure from defensive lineman Fletcher Cox #94 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs on November 12, 2011 at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Mississippi. Alabama won 24-7. (Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images)
Butch Dill/Getty Images

As the 2012 NFL draft looms nearer, NFC East rivals the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles could be set for a tussle over Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox.

Today reported that Cox intends to visit the Cowboys, while many mock drafts have had the Eagles selecting the Mississippi State star with the 15th overall pick.

Cox would be a good fit for both the Eagles' 4-3 defense as well as the Cowboys' aggressive 3-4 front. Both defenses could use the active and quick interior presence that Cox offers with his speed and technique.

At 6'4" and 298 pounds, Cox has the frame to operate as a 5-technique in Rob Ryan's hybrid 3-4 scheme. However, his natural first-step quickness makes also makes him an ideal fit for the 3-technique position in Philadelphia's attacking line alignments.

Eagles defensive line guru Jim Washburn utilized double 3-techniques last season and Cox would be a perfect interior partner for veteran Cullen Jenkins. If he was added to the Dallas three man front, Cox would be able to provide a pass-rush threat to supplement DeMarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff.

What makes Cox such an enticing prospect for both the Cowboys and the Eagles is his natural ability to pressure gaps. He is routinely able to quickly power through guard-tackle combinations.

His penchant for attacking the B-gap makes him an ideal 3-technique. Yet it also means that he would excel when taking inside moves as a 3-4 defensive end, in the manner of former NFL greats Bruce Smith and Leonard Marshall.

For the Cowboys, Cox could also use his sudden quickness to run effective twists and stunts with Ware. Getting pressure is the key to the Cowboys' defense and adding a legitimate pressure threat on the line would increase the range of Ryan's multiple schemes and allow him to blend fronts more often.

However, the Eagles' need is arguably greater. Trevor Laws and Derek Landri are still free agents, while neither Mike Patterson or Antonio Dixon are explosive enough to consistently make plays behind the line.

Cox's ability to get into the backfield and disrupt plays at the source would ease the pressure on Jenkins and create more one-on-one matchups for Trent Cole and Jason Babin.

His upper body strength and tenacity would allow Cox to drive blockers back and redirect running backs into the Eagles' pursuit.

Today's signing of former Buffalo Bills star Demetrius Bell, reported by, has solved Philadelphia's issue at left tackle. This could encourage them to focus on adding a true playmaker along the defensive interior.

However, with the Cowboys picking one spot ahead of the Eagles at No. 14, Dallas could snatch the talented defensive tackle away from Philadelphia.

If the Eagles believe this is a genuine possibility, they may even consider trading up to land a player who would be an ideal fit for their line schemes.

Cox would bring a lot to these two NFC East rivals and could spark a defensive revival that might lead to a postseason appearance.