Cox look­ing to re­gain ‘dy­namic’ early-sea­son form

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Bob Grotz bgrotz@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @BobGrotz on Twit­ter

Men­tion “few” and “far be­tween” to Fletcher Cox, and the Ea­gles’ de­fen­sive tackle im­me­di­ately thinks about two ma­jor is­sues — his di­min­ish­ing sacks to­tal and just one vic­tory in the last five games.

The NFC de­fen­sive player of the month for Septem­ber with three sacks is just one-for-Oc­to­ber and Novem­ber.

Let’s start with Cox’s pass rush, or lack thereof. It both­ers him be­cause he knows he’s bet­ter than what’s he’s shown lately, which is noth­ing re­ally, sta­tis­ti­cally. That’s not a lot of re­turn on the record six-year, $103 mil­lion con­tract ex­ten­sion he signed last sum­mer.

“I’ve got to be bet­ter,” Cox said. “I had a few chances last week. I had chances in pre­vi­ous weeks but I just didn’t get there. It’s a thing where I got them early and now I’ve hit a wall. I think I’ll be al­right. I know I’ll be al­right. I’ve just got to keep push­ing and put my­self in po­si­tion to get there.”

Cox had three sacks and six hur­ries in three games in Septem­ber. In the five games since, he has one sack and eight hur­ries. All of the sacks came while Ben­nie Lo­gan also was in the lineup. More on that later.

De­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Jim Schwartz de­fended Cox, ex­plain­ing how his player “made some dy­namic plays against the run” in the loss to the Giants this past Sun­day.

“Part of the facts of life when you’re in the NFL is when you’re a good player, you’re go­ing to get at­ten­tion,” Schwartz said, liken­ing Cox’s strug­gles to the old sopho­more slump. “It’s not so much that a guy is in a slump it’s just that ev­ery­body else is pay­ing at­ten­tion to him now. And I think Fletch has to deal with that. When you’re a dy­namic pass rusher in the NFL, when you can make an im­pact, of­fen­sive line coaches are go­ing to start their game plan with No. 91. Of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tors are go­ing to do that. I think you just have to keep on go­ing and know that there’s other ways that you can con­trib­ute.

“But we cer­tainly rely on Fletch to make a lot of plays for us,” Schwartz con­tin­ued. “And he’s played well. His num­bers haven’t been as eye-pop­ping as they were in the first month of the year.”

Schwartz didn’t men­tion it but the loss of de­fen­sive tackle Lo­gan, who hopes to re­turn this week, al­most cer­tainly has im­pacted Cox.

In the four games Lo­gan missed, in­clud­ing the Wash­ing­ton con­test in which he barely played, Cox con­trib­uted zero sacks and five hur­ries.

“Ben­nie was play­ing at a re­ally high level be­fore he got hurt,” Schwartz said. “Not just against the run. Against the pass, also. But

I thought (sub­sti­tute) Beau Allen has raised his level since Ben­nie’s been down. To have a four-man ro­ta­tion in there will mean a lot more. Hav­ing a three­man ro­ta­tion has worn us down in games. You’re not as fresh at the end of the game as you would like to be and hope­fully we can get back to that.”

Lo­gan had two sacks and five hur­ries while healthy. He re­turned to prac­tice on a full-time ba­sis Wed­nes­day, hav­ing suc­cess­fully re­habbed a groin in­jury.

Cox con­ceded “things are dif­fer­ent” with a new starter but praised the work of Allen, whom he said has been “play­ing at a high level.”

Re­gard­less of who plays tackle, the Ea­gles have to stop the run and dis­rupt Fal­cons quar­ter­back Matt Ryan, who has been sacked

22 times in nine games, to have a chance to beat At­lanta on Sun­day at Lin­coln Fi­nan­cial Field. Ryan leads the league in most ma­jor pass­ing cat­e­gories in­clud­ing touch­down passes, with 23, and passer rat­ing, a siz­zling 119.0. Run­ning back Devonta Freeman is a dual threat.

“I think we’ve just got to play our game,” Cox said. “I think this is the best of­fense that we will face all year. They’ve got a pretty good run­ning back. Matty Ice is play­ing at a very high level now. He’s throwing the ball to Julio (Jones) and they’ve got a whole lot of bal­ance right now. I think in or­der for us to stop them we’ve got to be able to stop Freeman.”

The Fal­cons have a ros­ter full of ca­pa­ble pass catch­ers, proof pos­i­tive their to­tal of five dropped passes on the sea­son. Only three teams have fewer drops.

To make it tougher on the Fal­cons, the Ea­gles have to hang in against the run and get to Ryan, which won’t be easy as the At­lanta of­fen­sive line was up­graded im­mensely with Alex Mack com­ing in to play cen­ter. Cox can ex­pect some tough dou­ble teams.

“I just have to em­brace it and find a way to get to the quar­ter­back,” Cox said. “At this point right now I think the most im­por­tant thing to me is win­ning a foot­ball game. Sacks, the num­bers, all that stuff I don’t re­ally get caught up in. Those things will come. When we’re win­ning, that’s when teams have a lot of sacks. Right now I think the main fo­cus of this team needs to be get­ting a win. We’ve dropped two in a row, and that’s been my main fo­cus, to gain a num­ber in the win col­umn.”

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

Ea­gles de­fen­sive tackle Fletcher Cox (91) needs to get back to ef­fec­tively ha­rass­ing op­pos­ing quar­ter­backs, like this lick he put on Carolina’s Cam New­ton.

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