Fletcher Cox Loves to ‘Slap’ Eagles Shutdown CB in ‘Head’

Fletcher Cox

Getty The Eagles inked Fletcher Cox to a one-year deal worth $14 million to return for the 2022 season.

The Eagles are down one big name from their terrifically terrifying tackle trio. Good thing they have a secret weapon.

With Javon Hargrave missing practice on Wednesday — and likely to sit out the season opener — it’ll be up to reserve defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway to eat up those extra snaps and spit them out. Ridgeway’s role on the interior of the defensive line will be one intriguing storyline to watch in Week 1 and one of his All-Pro teammates can’t wait to see it.

“Upfront and inside, I feel like we have a really good rotation,” team captain Fletcher Cox told reporters on Wednesday. “Hassan Ridgeway had probably his best training camp. He took so many steps forward with the way he attacked the offseason, the way he came into training camp and attacked training camp, you know, he’s made those strides to better himself.”

The Eagles inked Ridgeway to a one-year contract (worth $1.01 million) in the offseason for depth behind Cox, Hargrave, and Malik Jackson. The team only kept four total defensive tackles on the 53-man roster so there isn’t much room for error. Even with Hargrave on the mend, the tackle rotation has all the makings of a disruptive force. Especially with the return of Jackson after he missed 15 games in 219 due to a foot injury.

“And then we get Malik back, Malik is in the rotation, and whoever that fourth guy is rolling in right now,” Cox said. “But we have a really good rotation right now and I feel like everybody in that room has something to prove, including myself.”

That fourth guy might come in the form of a defensive end with Hargrave out. Vinny Curry or impressive rookie Casey Toohill might have to roll over to tackle.

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All-Pro Has Something to Prove After ‘Down Year’

Everyone chuckled when Cox said he had something to prove in his ninth NFL season. This is a player who has been named All-Pro four times while going to five Pro Bowls. His 48 career sacks already rank seventh-best in franchise history. Something to prove? Like what?

“I’m never satisfied,” Cox said. “I had a down year last year, I would say, coming off an injury and fighting through it all season, now I’m 100-percent healthy and I’m ready to roll.”

There were some quiet rumblings about Cox’s supposed “down year” in 2019. He recorded his second-worst sack total (3.5) and his 10 quarterback hits dipped from 34 in 2018. Of course, the 6-foot-4, 310-pounder is often fighting through tortuous double teams throughout the season. Not to mention that annoying toe/foot injury that lingered all year from offseason surgery. This was Cox’s first training camp in almost two years. So excuse him for being amped up.

“I’m excited about it [the season] and I’m ready to go into this first game knowing that I actually went through a training camp,” Cox said. “Last year I didn’t have a training camp before the first week. I feel good. I got a chance to go out and bang around a little bit in training camp, got to hit with the pads on, it’s really a difference.”

Don’t Forget My Best Friend Slay

The addition of Darius Slay is expected to impact the Eagles’ defense on so many levels. For starters, the All-Pro cornerback’s presence should shut down one side of the field in the passing game. Slay, combined with another new cornerback in Nickell Robey-Coleman, should help the unit steal some headlines from the team’s track-star offense. At least, that’s the way Cox sees it.

“I look at it as if this defense drives this team,” Cox said. “We’re the engine of the team. I look at it that way. But bringing those guys in, an All-Pro corner in, ‘Big Jay’ Hargrave in, Robey, those guys … they have played a lot of football and they know what it takes to win.”

And no one knows what Slay brings better than Cox. The two played together for one season in college, at Mississippi State. One of the reasons Slay ended up coming to Philly in the first place was due to constant recruiting from Cox. Philly this and Philly that. Now the shutdown corner is wearing midnight green and the Eagles’ locker room is way better for it.

“To those who know Slay, he’s just Slay,” Cox said. “What you see is what you get from him. He’s his own guy. He’s going to be a great teammate. He’s going to lead. He did those things in college. I expect those things from him.”

Slay’s good-natured humor and confident swagger have been rubbing off on his teammates all summer. However, Cox is quick to remind him of who the elder statesman is on this team, and going back to their college days, in the form of a little head slap.

“It’s funny, you know, I walk into the locker room every morning and kind of slap him on the back of the head,” Cox said. “He’s my guy. We went to college together so it’s just that thing, that bond, from college to now. Nothing ever changed.”

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