Fletcher Cox has steadily established himself as one of the best interior defensive lineman in the NFL over his decade with the Eagles. The big man out of Mississippi State wreaks havocs on opposing offensive lines as one of the best pass rushing tackles in the league.
However, playing defensive tackle requires a certain sense of humility, because half of the job is occupying space and attention to allow linebackers and others to stay clean from blocks and make plays. That can be a tricky balance to strike when you’re talented enough to go make a play regularly, but Cox says it’s all about communication and understanding your job and assignment on each and every play.
We spoke with the All-Pro last week on behalf of his partnership with Tide about the Eagles defense’s strong start to the season, how they will adapt to Brandon Graham’s absence after suffering an Achilles injury, his favorite DTs around the league, how Jalen Hurts just needs to be himself, and what it was like doing voice work for a washing machine.
It’s been a good start for you guys on the defensive side of the ball. What have you felt has been working through the first two weeks for you guys and kind of clicking on that end?
I mean, just knowing that plays are coming to you. Just let the plays come to you, and not try to make everybody else’s plays. It’s just everybody’s alignment, assignment, and doing the job, and you know, everybody’s crowding the football. Everybody runs to the football, not guessing or thinking that one guy’s got him down. It’s about having two guys on one person than just one guy. Just accountability, you know? Just holding everybody accountable, doing their job, and so far it’s paying off. We just gotta keep that same mindset.
The first thing you said about everybody knowing their assignment and playing their assignment, that’s something that’s especially important on the defensive line with gap contain and making sure that you’re in the right spots. That’s as big of a job as trying to make the play every time. How do you learn to do that as you come through your football career and learn that patience that it takes to understand that sometimes it’s not your job to necessarily make the play, but to help set up your guys to make the play?
Absolutely. Just communication, communication and being disruptive at the same time. Knowing that, like you just said, that I don’t make every play, but at some point, I had something to do with being disruptive to help [Javon] Hargrave or Brandon [Graham] or [Josh] Sweat or [Derek] Barnett or Milton [Williams]. Or, one of those guys make plays, even if it’s a safety coming down in the box or a linebacker or a corner. So that’s the biggest thing, just being effective, and just knowing your job, and knowing who you are. So I think that’s one of the biggest deals about playing defense in the NFL.
Obviously it was unfortunate to see Brandon go down but I think his response was something a lot of people gravitated to. What does it say about him not just as a player, but as a person, that he’s trying to take this positive outlook even as he goes down with such a tough injury?
Yeah man, you just got to take the good with it. I mean BG is a great person, great leader. He was always smiling. If you know BG, you know BG was always smiling and always have positive words to say, no matter what was going on during the game or what’s going on during a practice or during a meeting or somebody had miscommunication with something. He always tried to take it to make good out of it, and that’s why BG’s got so much respect. And for a guy that hasn’t missed a game in like I think like 9 or 10 years because of an injury, it says a lot about him and how much he values his body and how much he takes care of himself.
And then for you guys as a defensive line, how do you how do you adapt, because obviously you can’t replace a guy like that necessarily with one guy, but how as a group do you adapt to his absence the rest of the way?
You just gotta know that he’ll be there. You know he’ll be there helping, pushing up the young guys a little bit, after he’s able to get around after his surgery or whatever. But we got a lot of guys that’s played d end, that’s played a lot of ball too. You know, Ryan Kerrigan, Derek Barnett, Josh Sweat. So, I mean, those guys played a lot of ball and for them and for me I think it all again goes back to communication and just knowing what you’re doing, and knowing that we’re holding you, whoever that is, accountable. Whoever they decide to put there to fill that spot, knowing you gotta hold you accountable, and know that you don’t have to go out there and be BG. You got to go out there and be you.
There’s a ton of talent I think right now in the defensive line spot, especially on the inside at tackle. Who are some of your favorite guys around the league to watch when you get a chance to sit down and take in some games or take in some film at that position?
I mean, believe it or not, I don’t really watch a lot of sports, and I don’t really watch a lot of football. I’m a fan of a lot of people, though. Obviously I’m a fan of Aaron [Donald], Chris Jones, DeForest Buckner. I even have been talking to Derrick Brown a little bit from Carolina. I mean, just talking to those guys, communicating, and asking them — we all talk about, if I text them or something like that we’ll talk about how they played this block, how they play that block, and how to do certain things. But obviously we’re all in different defenses and, you know, it can only go so far. And obviously pass rush is pass rush, but in this game with defense you still have to play within your scheme of defense and make the best out of it.
And then on the other side of the ball, you’ve been going up against him for a year and a half now. What have you seen in the growth of Jalen Hurts every day in practice and what he’s bringing now that he’s in year two?
He’s being the best Jalen that he can be. I think he’s just taking in all of the coaching and the new system, and just taking off with it, just soaking it in, and doing what has to be done. And for a second year guy, when you ask for that, and they give it back to you, and you get paid back big in the end. So I was excited to see Jalen run around out there, have fun throwing the ball around, making plays. This entire offense, they just run around having fun, so I’m excited to watch them for Monday night.
How did this partnership that you have with with Tide come about, and what was it like doing voice work for a washing machine?
[Laughs] It was good, it was good. I’m very excited to be partnered with them, and it was a great opportunity for me to be a part of this. And really the biggest thing, a lot of us don’t really know this or understand about turning to cold with Tide, is that it saves a bunch on your energy bill. And basically just trying to help save the environment, save the planet in so many ways that turning to cold [water] can be effective. Not only that but doing the voiceovers was really fun. And then once I learned about the winner going to Tide.com, signing up, and you could get to win a voiceover washing machine with my voice on it which, it’d be great. And you get people excited to get out there and go in their washroom and be excited to hear my voice, their favorite Eagle on that washing machine.