The great thing about the NFL is that there are so many positions that every year, there is almost always at least one player who has a breakout year on every team, no matter how good or bad the team is. This is one part in a 32 part segment detailing one potential breakout player (rookies don’t count) for the 2013 NFL season on each NFL team. For the Philadelphia Eagles, that player is defensive end Fletcher Cox.
It was a season of much disappointment for the Eagles in 2012. Two years after proclaiming themselves the Dream Team, the Eagles finished 4-12, even worse than their incredibly disappointing 8-8 season in 2011. After winning 3 of their first 4, the Eagles won just one time in their final 12 games. However, one silver lining for the Eagles was the play of 2012 1st round pick Fletcher Cox, who had a strong rookie year and has promise for more in 2013 and beyond.
Cox finished the 2012 season as ProFootballFocus’ 18th rated defensive tackle on just 526 snaps, grading out above average as both a run stuffer and a pass rusher. With 4 sacks, 6 hits, and 14 hurries on 303 pass rush snaps, he finished 13th among eligible defensive tackles in pass rush efficiency and he was also 20th in run stop percentage. Even better news for the Eagles, he got better as the season went on, especially as a pass rusher as he had 3 sacks, 4 hits, and 10 hurries in weeks 10-16 (he didn’t play week 17 with injury).
Now the Eagles will be changing defensive schemes to a 3-4, at least a base 3-4, and Cox will be moving to defensive end. He has the size and athleticism to excel in that position as well and coming out of Mississippi State, I thought that would be his best position in the pros. He’ll still play inside some at defensive tackle as the Eagles are expected to use a hybrid scheme, but the scheme change will definitely do him some good. He’s also expected to play a fairly full set of snaps as he’s by far the Eagles’ best end after letting go of Cullen Jenkins, Derek Landri, and Mike Patterson. He could finish the year as a top-10 five-technique defensive end.