Philadelphia Eagles: 4 Reasonable Expectations for Fletcher Cox in 2012
The decision by the Philadelphia Eagles to select Fletcher Cox with their first overall pick has been met with unanimous praise from fans and pundits alike. Not only was Cox one of the best players available, but a case could be made that he was one of the best defensive players in the draft. Cox is an athletic, fast and smart player, with his main knock being his so-so run defense.
And while draft picks are sometimes selected with the intention of grooming them for a few seasons, Cox can and will be expected to start immediately for the Eagles. While the selection of Cox is partly a long-term strategy, with Cullen Jenkins not getting any younger, Cox will be expected to make an immediate impact.
Here are four reasonable expectations for Cox in 2012.
1. 3 or 4 Sacks for the Season
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While it may be a bit premature to proclaim that Cox will take over the other starting defensive tackle job from Mike Patterson, even if Cox does not take over as a starter, he will be counted on in certain situations to contribute and produce.
Not only has Andy Reid spoken glowingly of Cox, but so has defensive line coach Jim Washburn. Both noted Cox's athleticism and great technique. And as Washburn's wide-nine technique relies on generating pressure primarily from the defensive line, expect Cox to generate immense pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
It seems a bit difficult to predict how many sacks a rookie defensive tackle will have. But what is certain is that Cox will be an excellent rotational player at the very least and help to generate an excellent pass rush.
2. Will Improve the Rest of the D-Line
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The Eagles' defensive line was one of the team's biggest strengths in 2011. With Cox, the line can be expected to continue to dominate.
Jason Babin's success is remarkable, but he also benefited from playing alongside Pro Bowl-caliber players Trent Cole and Cullen Jenkins. Now, with the addition of Cox, along with the likes of Antonio Dixon, Derek Landri and the newly acquired Vinny Curry, the Eagles have enough depth to keep their core linemen fresh.
It is premature to say Cox will be the next Ndamukong Suh, but he will be good enough to help relieve pressure on the team's core pass-rushers.
3. Will Get a Legitimate Shot at the Starting Job
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Mike Patterson is a good football player, but it is not every day that the Eagles happen upon a player as talented and seemingly NFL-ready as Cox. Expect Cox to get a fair shot at the starting job and to compete with Patterson throughout training camp.
Patterson has had a good career, but he has never emerged as a star defensive player. Cox, on the other hand, has tremendous upside. If he shows the same promise in practice and training camp that he has demonstrated on tape and in college, it will be difficult for the Eagles not to consider inserting him into the starting lineup.
4. Will Need a Full Season to Improve/Develop
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The expectations for Cox are very high, but don't buy completely into the hype. He is still a rookie and, especially if he manages to win the starting DT spot, will certainly make his share of mistakes. He was a phenomenal player in college, but the NFL is a different game.
Cox has many skills that can carry over, such as his pass-rushing ability, but his run defense still needs some work. This may be made more difficult by Babin being a mediocre run defender, as well as a revamped linebackers corps that is still very unproven.
There may be situations in which Cox will be needed to make a crucial tackle, but will come up short and allow a big play.
However, growing pains are normal for most NFL players, including those of Cox's talent and potential. Expect Cox to struggle at times, but also expect big things from him following his rookie season as he gains more and more experience.