Eagles

Will Fletcher Cox be a Hall of Famer?

Will Fletcher Cox be a Hall of Famer?

This is our first in a series of stories looking at the Hall of Fame chances of current or recent Eagles who are still active in the NFL.

Today: Fletcher Cox
Saturday, July 20: Zach Ertz
Sunday, July 21: DeSean Jackson
Monday, July 22: Jason Kelce
Tuesday, July 23: LeSean McCoy
Wednesday, July 24: Jason Peters
Thursday, July 25: Darren Sproles

Numbers: Has 44 ½ sacks in 109 career games, ninth-most among active NFL defensive tackles.

Postseason numbers: Cox had one sack during the 2017 Super Bowl run but had six quarterback hits in the three playoff games.

Honors: Cox has made the Pro Bowl in each of the last four years and this past season was a first-team all-pro for the first time.

Favorite stat: Cox is only the ninth Eagle in franchise history to make four Pro Bowls before his 29th birthday and the first defensive lineman to do it since Reggie White.

Records and rankings

• Cox is sixth in franchise history in sacks. This past season he passed Andy Harmon (39 ½) for the most sacks in Eagles history by an interior lineman.

• Cox’s 10 ½ sacks last year are third-most in Eagles history by a defensive lineman, behind only Harmon in both 1993 (11 ½) and 1995 (11.0).

• This past season he became only the second player the Eagles have drafted since 1992 with double-digit sacks in a season. The other is Trent Cole.

Cox is one of only four defensive linemen to make the Pro Bowl in each of the last four seasons. The others are defensive tackles Geno Atkins of the Bengals, Jurrell Casey of the Titans and Aaron Donald of the Rams.

• Only seven Eagles in history have longer streaks of Pro Bowls than Cox: White (7), Pete Pihos (6) and Chuck Bednarik, Donovan McNabb, Tommy McDonald, Mike Quick and Troy Vincent (5 each). White is the only defensive lineman in Eagles history who was picked to more Pro Bowls.

Analysis 

Cox is at the same point now that Jason Peters was in his prime. He’s so dominating that he’s going to make the Pro Bowl every year that he’s healthy.

Cox is in his prime right now and let’s conservatively give him three more Pro Bowls. That would give him seven in his career, and taking a look at the 15 tackles in NFL history who made seven Pro Bowls, 13 of the 14 who are eligible have already been enshrined in Canton.

He’s already won a Super Bowl, made four Pro Bowls, been an all-pro and piled up 44 ½ sacks, and he’s only 28 and still getting better. And the Hall of Fame voters probably won’t consider it, but Cox is a beast against the run, as good a run stopper as we’ve seen in an Eagles uniform.

The biggest thing working against Cox is Aaron Donald, who is the best tackle in the game. Donald already has 59 ½ sacks in just five years, including 20 ½ last year. If the voters look back 10 years from now they may conclude that Donald was the elite defensive tackle of this generation and hold that against Cox.
 
But Cox is on his way to becoming an all-timer in his own right, and if he keeps stringing together Pro Bowl seasons and adds a couple more all-pro first-team honors it’s going to be impossible to keep him out of Canton.

Verdict: Will be a Hall of Famer.

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Will Carson Wentz still take off and run? 'If I don't need to, why would I?'

Will Carson Wentz still take off and run? 'If I don't need to, why would I?'

One thing you just don't see at Eagles practice is Carson Wentz leaving the pocket.

You rarely see him rolling out and throwing on the run, you rarely see called bootlegs or moving pockets, you rarely see him take off when the play breaks down.

Now, some of that is simply the product of a controlled environment at training camp. As long as Wentz wears the red jersey, he can’t be hit, so there's no reason to take off and escape pressure.

But listening to Wentz speak Tuesday, it’s more than that.

Wentz, now in his fourth year with the Eagles, said that as he grows in the offense, as he develops a faster ability to process what he sees, there's less and less reason to take off.

I think it kind of goes back to playing fast and just seeing and making quick decisions and just going through my reads quicker. Maybe it’s being another year in the system and always knowing where my checkdown is, where my hots are, different things like that. That part of my game is definitely not gone, it’s still going to be there, but if I don’t need to, why would I get out of the pocket when the O-line is holding up and I can find guys to get the ball to?

It’s fascinating to hear Wentz talk this way because he’s been so effective his first three years — especially in 2017 — making plays on the run, using his athleticism as a weapon.

But it also puts him at risk, and if there’s one thing we’ve learned the last two years, it’s that the Eagles really don’t need Carson Wentz to be at risk.

Doug Pederson spoke Tuesday about how fast Wentz is operating mentally now that he’s in Year 4 and how his ability to process defensive looks and make rapid-fire decisions can only make him more effective as a passer.

He’s getting to his reads faster, it’s part of the progression of him and his growth as a young quarterback right now. He’s getting to the line of scrimmage, he’s seeing things fast, he’s redirecting protection, going through progressions, ball’s coming out of his hand quicker … and those are things that we’ve seen through the spring and through this part of camp.

It’s a tricky balance.

Wentz can be so dangerous when the play breaks down and he leaves the pocket, but he’s also a lot safer when he’s working behind an offensive line stocked with All-Pros.

He said Tuesday it hadn’t occurred to him until he was asked about it that he’s done most of his work this summer in the pocket. But it makes sense.

We’ve seen it with so many other athletic quarterbacks, from Randall Cunningham to Donovan McNabb to Russell Wilson. 

As they get older and develop a deeper grasp of the offense, they can be just as dangerous picking apart a defense in the pocket as they can making things up out of the pocket.

I think every year from a mental standpoint, I’ve just taken a leap,” Wentz said. “You see the game faster, you’re reading and reacting quicker.

Wentz has run the ball 144 times in 40 games, but 31 of those were kneel-downs, so he’s actually running about three times a game. But the number of times he leaves the pocket has probably been double that.

Don’t worry. Wentz promises if there’s a play to be made outside the pocket?

He won't hesitate to go.

I feel good going just through my reads and finding a completion and moving on. But when I need to make a guy miss in the pocket? When I need to get out and make a play? That’s still definitely going to be a part of my game.

It’s all part of Wentz’s growth as a quarterback. The less time the ball spends in his hands, the safer he’ll be.

And keeping him safe and healthy is the most important thing facing the franchise this year and for the next several years.

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How swap of tight ends Richard Rodgers, Josh Perkins changes Eagles' offense in 2019

How swap of tight ends Richard Rodgers, Josh Perkins changes Eagles' offense in 2019

Richard Rodgers tried to walk off the field on Monday, but he couldn’t. Instead, he sat down in pain after a practice rep and lowered his head into his hands. Shortly after a hug from Doug Pederson, the Eagles’ anguished third-string tight end was carted inside. 

Just like that, Josh Perkins’ odds of making the Eagles’ roster skyrocketed. But he wasn’t in much of a celebratory mood after practice. 

“It’s terrible,” Perkins said on Monday afternoon. “I’ve seen him working his butt off the last few weeks, trying to get back out here. … It just sucks for him. I feel real bad for the guy.”

Such is life in the NFL. One man’s injury is another man’s opportunity. 

For the second year in a row, it appears that Perkins is going to get an opportunity, unfortunately, at the expense of Rodgers. It was a surprise Perkins made the roster out of camp last year, but it made more sense when Rodgers was placed on IR before the opener. Perkins spent the first nine weeks of 2018 as the Eagles’ third-string tight end before an injury of his own. It seems he’s destined for that role again this season. 

I just try to stay locked in each day,” Perkins said. “You never know what’s going to happen. Coach always says, ‘Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready.’ So when you’re thrown into the fire, you already know what to do.

Even before this injury to Rodgers, Perkins was pushing for a roster spot. The 26-year-old Perkins had a “steady” training camp, according to offensive coordinator Mike Groh. Pederson said this will be another good opportunity for Perkins. 

For his part, Perkins thinks he’s “light-years” ahead of where he was this time last year. Now, he knows the playbook and is able to fine-tune any mistakes. 

With a receiver background, Perkins is just a different player than Rodgers, who is better as a blocker on the line of scrimmage. Without Rodgers, Perkins admitted the Eagles will probably need him to block more at the LOS and it’s a part of his game he’s worked hard to improve. 

“I’m never scared to put my head down,” Perkins said. “We can bang all day.” 

But as much as he works on his blocking, Perkins’ strength is what he can do in the passing game. Heck, the Eagles basically used him as a receiver early last season. 

Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz noted if the Eagles want a blocking tight end, they can use an extra offensive tackle, which they’ve done plenty in the three years under Pederson. 

Ertz also explained what the difference in third-string tight ends means for him and Dallas Goedert. Basically, in a three-TE package, the type of third tight end dictates where Ertz and Goedert line up in the formation: “Dallas and I are pretty much always going to be on the field when we go three tight ends, so it either shifts us one tight end down in the formation or one tight end up in the formation. We feel good about either one of them.”

“If they put a nickel in, we can run the ball,” Perkins said. "If they put a linebacker in, we can throw the ball. I feel like I’m a great matchup threat. I feel like I can be a versatile piece to the offense.”

In nine games last season, Perkins caught five passes for 67 yards. With Ertz and Goedert ahead of him, there will probably still be limited offensive opportunities for Perkins this year, but he’s learned to make the most of any opportunity whenever — or however — it comes. 

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