LAS VEGAS — Fletcher Cox wants to attack.
The 30-year-old defensive tackle has made a career of getting downhill and after quarterbacks, racking up six Pro Bowl nods in his first nine years in the NFL.
This new defense just isn’t very aggressive.
And Cox is frustrated.
“It’s honestly not what it’s been,” Cox said on Sunday after the Eagles’ 33-22 loss to the Raiders. “Just gotta play what’s being called. When you’re so used to playing so aggressive the last however many years I’ve been playing, it’s just change. You can’t be as aggressive. You gotta play what’s being called.”
When the Eagles hired Nick Sirianni this offseason, he brought fast-rising new defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon with him from Indianapolis.
Seven games into this 2021 season and Gannon’s defense has come under fire by fans, questioned publicly by Sirianni and now the Eagles’ highest-paid player is voicing his frustration.
“There’s times when I’m aggressive and it’s good for us. There’s times when I’m aggressive and it hurts us,” Cox said. “In the grand scheme of things, you just gotta play what gets called. I’m an aggressive player and that’s how I make my living, playing in the backfield and splitting double teams and not used to double teams staying on me 2, 3 yards down the field. That’s just frustration.
“And when you get frustrated and get tired of 600, 700 pounds laying on you, you want to do something about it. Obviously, being the player I am, I can only take so much and I’m going to do something about it. I’m going to be aggressive.”
Of course, there’s the argument to be made — a salient one at that — that Cox still needs to be more productive, even given the confines of the new scheme. He has just one sack this season and on Sunday had just two tackles.
But the strength of this defense is supposed to be the defensive line. The guy who is supposed to anchor that defensive line is Cox.
And he’s clearly not happy about the Eagles’ passive defense, but he says he wants to leave the coaching to Gannon and his assistants.
“I don’t think it’s my job to talk to the coaches about scheme or anything like that,” Cox said. “I think the biggest thing is the coaches, they’re here to coach us. We’ve got to play what’s called. Obviously as a player, these coaches and all these assistants spend so much time game-planning. So you gotta just buy in to what’s being called.”
The Eagles’ defensive line on Sunday didn’t sack Derek Carr once and they got just two hits on him. Carr completed 31 of 34 passes as the Raiders cruised to victory. When asked about Carr’s accuracy, Cox suggested buying a stopwatch to see just how fast the ball was leaving the quarterback’s hand.
Despite the obvious concerns, Cox said he has confidence in this coaching staff, mentioning that it’s everybody’s first year.
But Cox is 30 now and a wasted season this late into his career obviously isn’t ideal.
“I think anybody being in the league 10 years and playing at a really high level for 9 1/2 of them, now for me it can be frustrating,” Cox said. “The biggest thing for me is to stay a pro, stay professional. I got a C on my jersey so I gotta stay being a leader, try to keep everybody up.”
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