The Philadelphia Eagles have officially signed this year’s first round pick, Fletcher Cox, to a four-year deal that extends through the 2015 season. Cox was the 12th overall selection out of Mississippi State, as the Eagles traded up to the Seattle Seahawks’ spot to acquire the standout defensive tackle.
It has to be a relief for the Eagles that Cox didn’t hold out for as long as last year’s first round pick, Danny Watkins, did. Cox had missed time this training camp as he was dealing with the sudden death of a close friend who was killed in an accident a week ago.
Cox will likely begin the season as the backup defensive tackle behind Mike Patterson and Cullen Jenkins, but expect him to put up a significant fight for playing time.
Last year, both Patterson and Jenkins played in exactly 652 snaps, with Derek Landri and Trevor Laws appearing in 355 and 351 snaps, respectively. That means that Patterson and Jenkins really only played about 60 percent of the snaps at defensive tackle, and I think it will almost be a three-way split this year with Patterson, Jenkins, and Cox.
Patterson is the veteran player and terrific run stopper, an underrated pass rusher and just a solid all-around tackle. Jenkins is a borderline Pro Bowl player who had a strong season in year one in Philadelphia. Cox is the first round pick with a tremendous amount of upside who could very well become a perennial Pro Bowler.
Don’t forget that the Eagles also have Derek Landri and Antonio Dixon fighting for playing time at the interior line spots.
Landri rated as the fourth-best defensive tackle in the entire NFL in 2011 despite appearing in an average of just over 20 snaps per game. He is an exceptional pass rusher and a talented run stuffer. He and Cox are by far the best combination of backup defensive tackles in the league.
Dixon will also push for playing time, as the Eagles signed him to a one-year deal. He missed much of last season with a triceps injury, but he is a valuable part of the line.
If the Eagles keep all five players, their defensive line—which also includes Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Vinny Curry, Brandon Graham, and Phillip Hunt—will be downright scary good. No team's in the NFL compares to the Eagles' defensive line, and that’s a major reason why the Eagles will win the NFC East in 2012.