Eagles Need To Turn Fletcher Cox Loose The Rest Of The SeasonBREAKING NEWS, Defensive Line, Eagles, News Friday, October 18th, 2013
I think Chip Kelly has done a tremendous coaching job this year so far because he’s tailored his offense to his talent. There aren’t a large group of coaches who can do this. Most coaches know their system and they try to acquire the necessary talent to fit it, but they have trouble trying to adjust their system to fit the talent. Kelly has done just that with Michael Vick, Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson. All you to have to do is look at the recent success of Jackson in the red zone.
That’s the offensive side of the ball. On the defensive side of the ball, Billy Davis is trying to accomplish the same thing with the team’s defensive players. On Sunday I thought he and his staff worked out a way to put defensive end Fletcher Cox in better position to flourish.
I thought the Eagles finally turned Cox loose on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and they should continue the practice. He was living in the Buccaneers backfield for most of the game. According to Cox, his defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro gave him permission to take some chances by making a call to his defensive line-mates on Sunday, which allowed him to hit some open gaps in the Tampa Bay offensive line and utilize his power and speed.
“They gave me some freedom to take some chances and I was right on the calls I made to the defensive line”, Cox said. I don’t know exactly what he meant, but whatever it means they need to continue.
“I just think his production and the energy that he played with (really stood out),” head coach Chip Kelly said. “We had him for five hurries. (He) really created a lot of havoc in there, just starting to – little bounce in his step, a little bit more juice out there, and I really – I talked to him a little bit about it, and he seemed like he was having fun playing football, and that’s what we want out of Fletch because he can really cause some problems inside there. He’s starting, again, like everybody, we’re all kind of new to each other and we’re getting a better feel for him and he’s getting a better feel for us.”
“I think I played pretty good (against the Buccaneers),” Cox said. “I think I started badly versus the Giants. I’m just really focusing in because the first two games I knew I probably made a few plays and showed up here and there – a little inconsistent, I was just being an average player. The thing was, I go back and as I watch film, I know there were a lot of things I could’ve done differently.”
Fellow defensive lineman Cedric Thornton had been more versatile than Cox in being able to play single gap and two-gap, but throughout number 91’s college career at Mississippi State, Cox was told to attack a single gap and get as deep into the backfield as he could get. The powerful young defensive lineman was given the freedom to not worry about reading double-team blocks or reach blocks.
In his first year in the NFL with former Eagles defensive line coach Jim Washburn, it was the same way. All he had to do was attack and make some thing happen.
This year with new defensive coordinator Billy Davis and three-four defensive scheme. One of the fundamentals of the scheme is for the defensive linemen to execute the two-gap technique. They have to read the block of the opposing offensive linemen while they’re attacking. They aren’t free to fly into the backfield. Many times playing defensive lineman in the three-four means keeping offensive linemen off of the linebackers, so they can run around and make plays.
It’s been a time of adjusting for Cox. Many times during the first five contests, I have looked and wondered if he’s even in the game. They can play the three-four alignment some of the time, but they should do it much less . You don’t draft a guy in the first round then use him to protect linebackers, so they can make plays.
I think when you draft a guy as talented as Cox, you turn him loose to dominate. I saw some of it last week, but Cox needs to be turned loose on every play. He can be a dominating force but not in a three-four alignment.
Two-gapping means the defensive end has to take on the offensive tackle or guard then be able to come off to either side of the offensive lineman to make tackle. It’s one of the toughest tasks a defensive lineman is asked to do, plus many times, you’re keeping the linebackers free to make the play.
On any given play, they have to take on a big 340-pounder offensive tackle, stop him in his tracks, then be able to make the tackle on a running back,, who is trying to run through a hole on the right or left side of that offensive linemen. The defensive lineman is responsible for not one but two holes in the defense. It’s not easy to do and it hasn’t been easy for Cox to make the adjustment, now that it’s a major part of his job.
There’s no other way to say it, Cox has struggled playing the two-gap technique. I think they should let him play the three-technique defensive tackle in the under defensive alignment that current Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley was planning on playing here. You’ve got to be able to put consistent pressure on the quarterbacks in the NFL. This is a passing league, so they must find ways to put Cox in position to get pressure on the passer. He would be a monster in that spot, but I don’t think he can do it nearly as much as a two-gap defensive end.
I’ve seen hesitation and unfocused play. No longer has he been as aggressive as he was a year ago, until they turned him loose against the Biuccaneers. No longer has he been dominating the guy in front of him to the point where the other team is forced to double-team him. It has been the two-gap technique not the opposing offensive linemen, which has limited and handcuffed Cox. He used to just pin his ears back, get off on the ball and let it loose.
Last Sunday the old Fletcher Cox appeared. He was all over the place in pursuit of Tampa Bay rookie quarterback Mike Glennon. The big fella took the opportunity last week to shoot through gaps in the offensive line and either tackle Tampa Bay running back, Doug Martin. He was getting off the ball like he was shot out of a cannon.
Hopefully we’ll continue to see this Fletcher Cox the rest of the season. The guy can be as dominating as anybody in the league, when he’s turned loose on the opposing offense. Put him in the three-technique defensive tackle spot and every guard in the league won’t want to play the Eagles.
This week would be a good week to start that plan. They need Cox to torment Dallas quarterback Tony Romo this weekend. The Cowboys have a lethal passing attack and are sure to connect at times for big yardage, but if Cox and his buddies do their jobs they’ll force Romo into some costly mistakes and that will be the difference.
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