Bill Belichick is right: Fletcher Cox is really good
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said all week, and again after the Patriots’ loss to Philadelphia Sunday, that Fletcher Cox is one of the league’s best defensive linemen. And while Cox didn’t notch a single sack against the Patriots, he was a dominant force once more in a season in which he isn’t getting nearly enough credit.
For once the numbers guys and Belichick are on the same page publicly.
Cox didn’t get a sack on Brady, but took him to the ground four times and notched 14 total pressures in the game on 50 pass-rushing snaps. No other defender notched more pressures this week.
Cox and Brandon Graham in particular were a major force against Tom Brady all game long. The pair combined for 24 total pressures, with Vinny Curry and Connor Barwin chipping in with another three sacks and nine additional pressures.
Despite being accepted as a pretty good player, Cox, like many other defensive line studs, will remain in the shadow of J.J. Watt, one of the league’s most dominant forces.
Watt is again crushing all comers this season, but Cox is one of a number of players having excellent seasons in his own right, and plays in an interesting scheme that might make his grades even more impressive.
While league-wide the two-gapping 3-4 defenses of old have almost died out, the Eagles still run more of it than anybody else, meaning their defensive line trio of Cox, Bennie Logan at nose tackle and Cedric Thornton at the other defensive end spot are head-up over blockers more than any other team in the league. Instead of attacking gaps and disrupting in the backfield, they are tasked with standing up a blocker and defending the gap on either side of him – an inherently tougher thing to do and be productive at.
Cox doesn’t have the attacking free reign that other players, even at his position, have in the NFL, and yet he continues to be consistently productive. This season he has 59 total pressures and two batted passes, and has also graded well against the run.
He is one of seven players to earn our blue-chip rating over the season among all defensive interior players, and when Belichick praises him as one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL, he is right on point — whether Cox managed to record a sack in the game or not.
There are few players as disruptive as Cox, and if the Eagles can get the kind of support play from those around him that they got from the rest of that defense this week, this is a unit talented enough to cause problems for a lot of teams.