Eagles

Fletcher Cox still making an impact despite lack of stats

Fletcher Cox still making an impact despite lack of stats

Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox may not have a sack through five games, but opposing quarterbacks probably shouldn’t get too comfortable in the pocket.

“I know my time is coming,” Cox said Wednesday.

Cox is coming off his most impactful game of the season by far with five tackles against the Jets, two of those behind the line of scrimmage. And while the four-time Pro Bowler somehow wasn’t part of the Eagles’ sack parade on Sunday, coaches and teammates credited him with creating quite a few plays that didn’t show up on the stat sheet.

“(Rodney McLeod’s) interception was all Fletch,” said Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. “(Josh Sweat’s) sack was Fletch disrupted the quarterback, stepped up, and Josh came off his block and was able to make the sack.

“I know when I look at the film, Fletch got me one,” Brandon Graham said. “I owe him on that one.”

Unfortunately for Cox, sacks are not transferrable.

“I wish he could sell me one,” said Cox. “Are they selling sacks right now? I’d like to buy a couple for real.”

Cox is coming off a career year in which he recorded 10.5 sacks, but underwent offseason foot surgery and missed all of the Eagles’ offseason workouts, training camp and preseason. Not surprisingly, his 2019 got off to a slow start, and not merely in terms of sacks. He has just two quarterback hits, while the tackles for loss on Sunday were his first.

Week 3 against the Lions, Cox didn’t even make it into the box score.

Now, all of a sudden, Cox is looking healthy again — sure, a game against the Jets will do that for a defender, but he says the foot doesn’t bother him anymore and he’s “been feeling good since the short week in Green Bay.”

“I’m perfectly fine, and I think if you turn the tape on right now you see a totally different person in me,” Cox said. “I’m 100 percent, flying around, making a lot of plays that I normally made when I was healthy back last year, and I feel great.”

Eagles coach Doug Pederson says Cox is “coming into his own” with the injury finally behind him. No surprise, the defense appears to be coming along with him.

“I'm not a big stats guy,” Schwartz said. “It's about stopping drives. It's about winning games and limiting scoring and things like that.

“There is no stat for team defense. There is no stat for guys doing their job, doing it tough, and doing it physically. Fletch did that in this game.”

And while Cox would love to get into the sack column sooner rather than later, he’ll definitely take more performances like he had against the Jets over his contributions for the first month of the season.

“I’m not a selfish person,” Cox said. “The most important thing right now is to keep this team on the right track, just continue being a leader and just enjoy the wins.”

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The area where JJ Arcega-Whiteside is showing some potential

The area where JJ Arcega-Whiteside is showing some potential

For a second-round pick, it’s fair to say that JJ Arcega-Whiteside’s rookie season hasn’t been a resounding success to this point. 

So it’s definitely notable that his two biggest catches of the season have come on off-schedule plays. 

“That’s kind of like backyard football,” Arcega-Whiteside said this week. “Ain’t no real way to coach it or train for it. It’s just like, broken play, get open. There’s no technique or nothing. It’s just get open. I’ve just been lucky that Carson has found me and I was in the right place at the right time. Hopefully, we can get some more going forward.” 

For whatever reason, it seems like the rookie is better in those situations right now. Maybe it’s because of the NFL learning curve or because these are the situations where thinking is completely removed from the equation. Just go out there and make a play. 

It’s encouraging to see his playmaking ability, even when it hasn’t come as much on the initial play calls. At least we can see that he has it in him. 

Arcega-Whiteside caught a 29-yard pass on an off-schedule play in the fourth quarter of the Patriots game. And then on Sunday in Miami, his first NFL touchdown came on a 15-yarder on a broken play. 

The touchdown came with 13 seconds left in the first half against the Dolphins. It was 3rd-and-goal from the 15, which is a difficult situation to convert. In fact, NFL offenses have gotten touchdowns on just 2 of 13 such opportunities this year. 

“He's been at the right place at the right time,” offensive coordinator Mike Groh said. “The play there at the end of the half for the touchdown where he's inside releasing there and then he is working with Carson as Carson scrambles out there to the right, and then he's able to get out of the grass above the DB and come back and fight for the ball was a really good play by JJ and Carson.”

As Wentz escapes the pocket, you can see the rookie lock eyes with him. He’s about to take one more step toward the sideline and cut back inside, avoiding the defender that had tight coverage on him. Wentz puts it on him. 

Arcega-Whiteside and Wentz haven’t played a ton together, so it’s impressive that they’re able to connect on these types of plays. The receiver has to understand where the quarterback is going to throw it and the quarterback has to trust that the receiver is thinking the same thing. 

“We talk about it,” Arcega-Whiteside said. “It’s like, ‘ideally, we want this guy to do this or this guy to do this.’ But at the end of the day, just get open. Come back to the quarterback, be friendly and play ball.”

That’s usually the main coaching point for receivers in these off-schedule situations: Be quarterback friendly, which means give him a target, give him an opportunity to get the ball to you. 

That’s exactly what Arcega-Whiteside also did in the fourth quarter against the Patriots a couple weeks ago. He found an open spot in the field where Wentz threw it and came back to get the ball. 

 

What makes Arcega-Whiteside good in these situations?  

It’s pretty simple. 

“Just his ability to keep working,” Wentz said. “JJ does a great job of it.” 

The Eagles have struggled to find consistent plays from their receivers this year, so the fact that their second-round pick had trouble getting on the field at first and still has just six catches for 101 yards isn’t great. But Arcega-Whiteside and Wentz will be together for a least a couple more years after 2019. 

And these plays are certainly a silver lining. 

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Eagles Injury Update: Derek Barnett, Nelson Agholor, Kamu Grugier-Hill miss practice again

Eagles Injury Update: Derek Barnett, Nelson Agholor, Kamu Grugier-Hill miss practice again

For the second straight day, the Eagles were without three key players at practice. 

Derek Barnett (ankle), Kamu Grugier-Hill (concussion) and Nelson Agholor (knee) all missed Friday’s session after also missing Thursday. 

It’s rare for players to miss the first two practice days of the week and play that weekend. 

Barnett, it seemed, hurt his ankle during the loss to the Dolphins but was able to finish the game, playing 50 snaps. This season, Barnett is second on the team in sacks with 4 1/2 and has played more snaps (78 percent) than any other defensive lineman. 

The only other defensive players to play more than him this season are Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod. 

If Barnett can’t play on Monday, it’s likely Vinny Curry and Josh Sweat will see more playing time and perhaps Genard Avery will see a few more snaps. Maybe even Daeshon Hall or Shareef Miller might get to play a bit. 

Agholor has been dealing with his knee injury since the Patriots game. He missed the game against Seattle, but returned last week to play 63 snaps against the Dolphins. Last week, Agholor was limited in practice the first two days of the week and was not given a game status. 

If Agholor can’t play, Greg Ward could perhaps have a bigger role on Monday night. 

Meanwhile, Grugier-Hill didn’t report concussion symptoms until Thursday and was then placed into the NFL’s concussion protocol. Based on the timing of all that, it seems like a long shot that he’ll be able to play on Monday night. 

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