Eagles

Fletcher Cox wants to be Defensive Player of Year — can he?

ap_cox.png
AP Images

Fletcher Cox wants to be Defensive Player of Year — can he?

After the Eagles finished their Super Bowl season, Fletcher Cox had a conversation with his defensive line coach, Chris Wilson. 

Cox told Wilson he wants to become the AP's Defensive Player of the Year. 

“I said, ‘Let’s do it. I’m all in,’” Wilson remembered this week. 

Cox is already the best defensive player on his own team. He’s already a perennial Pro Bowler, one of the best DTs in the NFL and has already signed his name on a $100 million contract. 

The 27-year-old wasn’t shy about sharing his new goal earlier this spring. His next goal is to win DPOY, an award an Eagles player hasn’t taken home since 1987, when Reggie White won it. 

But … can he actually do it? 

“I don’t see why not,” said Wilson, who probably knows Cox as well as any coach after coaching him in college and now in the pros. “It’s like anybody, he’s one of those difference makers in this league. He’s on a good football team and so I believe he has a chance to be whatever he wants to be, especially if we can keep him healthy and we can keep him playing at the level he’s playing at. 

“I’m excited to watch him. He’s had a great offseason. The way he’s competed this offseason, the few years we’ve had together, this is the best one I’ve seen him have up to this point.”

Wilson brought up the point that the award normally goes to one of the best defensive players on one of the best teams. That part seems to be true, historically. Of the last 20 DPOY winners, 18 were on winning teams. The only two who weren’t were Jason Taylor in 2006 and Michael Strahan in 2001. The teams of these players have averaged 10.7 wins per season, with plenty of 12-win seasons in the mix. So Cox has that going for him; the Eagles should be good. 

But the bigger issue is his sack total. 

Cox had a great season in 2017 but finished with just 5.5 sacks. His career high was 9.5 back in 2015. He’s never been a double-digit sack guy, which seems to be a prerequisite for any defensive lineman who wins the award. 

The good news: Of the last 20 players to win DPOY, 11 have been defensive linemen (including 3-4 OLBs). And six of the last seven. 

The bad news: Every single one of those 11 finished with double-digit sacks, a threshold Cox has never surpassed. In fact, the 11 defensive linemen to win DPOY in the last 20 years have averaged over 14.0 sacks in their award-winning seasons. 

“But I look at it, are you the most complete player?” Wilson said. “A guy who can play the run, a guy who limit his mistakes to the minimum, a guy who makes everybody in the building better because he’s in the building. I think Fletcher has that ability to be all those. If he can get to double digits (in sacks), great. That means we’re in the lead of a lot of games.”

That might be how Wilson sees the award, but it’s clearly not how voters see the award. Winning matters, but not as much as stats. If Cox doesn’t get into double digits, he can still be a great player, but he’s not winning this award. 

Here’s a look at the last 20 winners: 

2017: DT Aaron Donald — 11 sacks, team record (11-5)

2016: DE Khalil Mack — 11 sacks, (12-4)

2015: DE J.J. Watt — 17.5 sacks, (9-7)

2014: DE J.J. Watt — 20.5 sacks, (9-7)

2013: LB Luke Kuechly — team record (12-4)

2012: DE J.J. Watt — 20.5 sacks, (12-4)

2011: OLB Terrell Suggs — 14 sacks, (12-4)

2010: S Troy Polamalu — team record (12-4)

2009: DB Charles Woodson — team record (11-5)

2008: OLB James Harrison — 16 sacks, (12-4)

2007: S Bob Sanders — team record (13-3)

2006: DE Jason Taylor — 13.5 sacks, (6-10)

2005: LB Brian Urlacher — team record (11-5)

2004: S Ed Reed — team record (9-7)

2003: LB Ray Lewis — team record (10-6)

2002: LB Derrick Brooks — team record (12-4)

2001: DE Michael Strahan — 22.5 sacks, (7-9)

2000: LB Ray Lewis — team record (12-4) 

1999: DT Warren Sapp — 12.5 sacks, (11-5)

1998: DE Reggie White — 16 sacks, (11-5)

A closer look at Eagles’ receiver options on the practice squad

us_eagles_ps.png
USA Today Images

A closer look at Eagles’ receiver options on the practice squad

With a clear need at receiver and a short week to prepare to play in Washington, the Eagles will probably go shopping in their own pantry. 

Meaning they’re likely going to call up someone from the practice squad. 

Alshon Jeffery is reportedly done for the season and Nelson Agholor’s status is up in the air for Sunday, so the Eagles are down to J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Greg Ward, both of whom limped out of the locker room on Monday night. 

So there’s a chance the Eagles might actually need to call up two practice squad receivers, but almost certainly at least one. They have three on the practice squad. 

Let’s take a closer look at their options: 

Marken Michel (5-11, 190) 

Michel, 26, was just signed to the practice squad on Dec. 5 and it was a little surprising it took that long. The older brother of Patriots running back Sony Michel had a very promising spring and summer in Philadelphia, highlighted by this 75-yard touchdown catch from Nate Sudfeld in the preseason. 

Michel had four catches for 117 yards in the preseason. He has some speed, which would be a welcome addition for this Eagles offense. 

At 26 years old, it’s not like Michel is some young developmental player, so there’s more of a case for bringing him up now. 

And he has plenty of professional experience; it just didn’t come in the NFL. Michel went undrafted out of UMass in 2016 and spent just one summer with the Minnesota Vikings before heading north to the CFL, where he played for the Calgary Stampeders for two seasons. He was on the Grey Cup-winning team with linebacker Alex Singleton in 2018. In two seasons in the CFL, Michel had 72 catches for 1,215 yards and eight touchdowns in 24 games. He was the CFL West Division Rookie of the Year in 2017. 

Robert Davis (6-3, 210) 

Davis, 24, signed to the Eagles practice squad back on Oct. 7, not long after he was released by the Redskins. 

Washington drafted Davis in the sixth round out of Georgia State back in 2017. He split time in 2017 on the practice squad and active roster as a rookie but played in just one game. But Davis broke his leg in August 2018 and missed his entire second season. But he rehabbed and was back in 2019. He made the initial roster, was cut, added to the practice squad and then brought back to the active roster. He played in three games for Washington this season and had his first NFL catch; it went for 11 yards. But he was then released again and came to Philly. 

At 6-3, Davis is a big, catch-radius target. You could argue the Eagles don’t need that right now, even without Alshon, because they already have Arcega-Whiteside active on game days. But Davis is very athletic and ran a 4.44 at the combine a couple years ago. 

At Georgia State for four full seasons, Davis caught 222 passes for 3,391 yards and 17 touchdowns, while averaging 15.3 yards per catch. 

Marcus Green (5-8, 191) 

Green, 23, has been the Eagles’ practice squad all season. He signed just after final cuts and has been there ever since. The Falcons used a sixth-round pick on Green out of Louisiana-Monroe in the 2019 draft but waived him at final cuts. 

Obviously a smaller build, Green is also known for his abilities as a return man. He returned 70 kicks (25.2 average) and 28 punts (10.0 average) in college. The Eagles have had Boston Scott returning kicks and Greg Ward returning punts. They could bring up Green and let him do both as well as have a backup role as a receiver. 

In four years at Louisiana-Monroe, Green caught 202 passes for 2,698 yards (13.4) and 23 touchdowns. He also had 51 carries for 492 yards (9.6) and a touchdowns. 

Green is very speedy slot receiver with gadget flexibility and return possibility, but if Agholor and Ward are active, there might be less of a need for an inside receiver. 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles

Doug Pederson reveals his plan for Boston Scott

Doug Pederson reveals his plan for Boston Scott

Can’t keep Boston Scott on the bench now.

After this?

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said Tuesday that Scott, the Eagles’ speedy 5-foot-6 running back, earned a regular spot in the team’s running back rotation with his electrifying performance against the Giants.

Scott, forced into action in the second half as rookie Miles Sanders battled cramps, was nothing less than brilliant, turning 16 touches into 128 scrimmage yards and the touchdown that started the Eagles’ comeback.

Scott, who entered the game with only 99 career yards from scrimmage and one career catch, ran 10 times for 59 yards and caught six passes for 69 yards, including a 25-yarder down the right sideline in overtime that was one of the Eagles’ biggest plays this year.

His 128 scrimmage yards are the most by any Eagles running back since LeGarrette Blount had 156 against the Chargers in 2017.

Asked whether that performance earned Scott playing time even when — or if — the Eagles’ running backs are healthy, Pederson said:

Sure, (because of) where we are right now as a team, an offense (and) his performance and what we've seen in practice, too. Really, it goes all the way back to training camp and some of the preseason games where he played and showed some of that speed and quickness. I think he can really make an impact for us.

The Eagles signed Scott off the Saints’ practice squad late last year, but he didn’t play on offense. He started this year on the Eagles’ practice squad and was signed to the 53 when Corey Clement went on Injured Reserve in mid-October.

But the 24-year-old Scott didn’t play much until Monday night, when Sanders left the game in the third quarter with cramps.

The Eagles trailed 17-3 at halftime, but with Scott making play after play, they scored 20 unanswered points and won 23-17 in overtime to keep their playoff hopes alive.  

It was good to see Boston get in the game and do the things he did,” Pederson said. “It just gave us as an offense a change of pace. There’s a quickness there, and that's just Boston. It takes nothing away from the other guys. Something we'll continue to implement into our game plan and find ways to utilize him in the offense.

It took four running back injuries — Clement, Sproles, Jordan Howard and Sanders — for Scott to finally get a chance.

Why did it take the Eagles so long to recognize his ability and why did it take four injuries to get him on the field?

Valid questions.

But what’s important now is that Scott continues to have the chance to make plays like he made Monday.

He netted his 128 scrimmage yards on just 16 touches and had 122 of those yards after halftime.

He's the first Eagles running back with 128 yards on 16 or fewer touches since Sproles against the Colts in 2014 and only the eighth to do that in the last 40 years.

He also became the first Eagles running back with 122 scrimmage yards in a half since LeSean McCoy had 170 of his 221 in the second half of the Snow Bowl win over the Lions in 2013.

Pederson said Tuesday that Sanders is fine. His 69 scrimmage yards Monday night gave him 948 this year, which quietly broke McCoy’s franchise record for scrimmage yards by a rookie running back.

But Clement and Sproles are out for the year and Howard remains out indefinitely with a stinger. He hasn’t played since the Bears game on Nov. 3.

As of now, Sanders, Scott and Jay Ajayi are the Eagles’ healthy running backs, although Ajayi has not been productive since his return, with 30 rushing yards on 10 carries in three games. Once Scott started going off Monday night, Ajayi didn’t play.

Looking ahead, Sproles is expected to retire and Howard and Ajayi are due to become free agents.

Sanders is under contract through 2022, and the Eagles control Scott through 2021 and Clement through 2020.

So the reps are there for Scott if he continues to produce. Not just this year, but in the future as well.

After seeing him play Monday night, how can you not play the kid?

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles