Eagles' Cox, ignoring the comparisons, plays at own pace

Fletcher Cox says he doesn't feel pressure.
Fletcher Cox says he doesn't feel pressure. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff)
Posted: September 07, 2012

It's a tricky business comparing one player to another, especially one as good as Richard Seymour.

But when Cullen Jenkins was asked to name a player who reminded him most of Fletcher Cox, he immediately brought up the seven-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle.

"He kind of reminds me kind of like a Seymour type," the Eagles defensive tackle said Wednesday. "I think with his size and his length, I think that's somebody he should study and that he could really turn into that type player."

That's high praise and perhaps an extra bit of pressure on Cox. Not that there isn't already a load of pressure on the Eagles' top draft pick, although the defensive tackle has flown under the radar far more than many recent No. 1 selections.

"I've heard stories where guys had a lot of [expectations]. I'm sure there's a lot of expectation of me," Cox said. "I just can't come in and things happen right then. You've got to grow into the system. . . . I don't feel like there's any pressure on me."

Had Cox been brought in to start immediately at a position where the Eagles had a great need, such as Danny Watkins at right guard last year, there might have been more pressure.

Had he been drafted to compete for a starting position, such as second-round pick Mychal Kendricks at linebacker, Cox might have attracted more attention.

Or if he played a skill position that draws its own spotlight, such as wide receiver Jeremy Maclin - the Eagles' top pick in 2009 - he might have felt the heat a little more than he has.

But Cox was not brought in to start right away - although there is a chance he could be first out on the field Sunday when the Eagles open the season in Cleveland. There was never any doubt he would join the four-man rotation at defensive tackle. And he plays a grunt position.

Nevertheless, Cox was the 12th overall pick in the draft out of Mississippi State. The Eagles traded up three spots to get him. He will be expected to contribute at some level. Coach Andy Reid and defensive line coach Jim Washburn have tried to lessen the load on the 21-year-old.

Washburn "said there won't be pressure on me to try to go out and be someone that I am not," Cox said. "He wants me to go out and do the things that I'm coached to do, which is get off the ball, put penetration in the backfield, and play hard."

Cox should not try to be Seymour, although the comparison makes some sense. (Remember, though, that Seymour, an Oakland Raiders star, is a possible Hall of Fame candidate and Cox has yet to play a down of football in the NFL.)

They are similar sizes - Cox is 6-foot-4 and 298 pounds; Seymour is 6-6, 317 - and have comparable body types. Both are defensive tackles that could just as easily play defensive end in either a 3-4 or a 4-3. Cox occasionally may play on the outside this season.

Both are inside pass-rush specialists; at least that is the expectation for Cox. Both were all-Americans in the Southeastern Conference. And both were first-round picks. (Seymour was selected sixth overall by New England out of Georgia in 2001.)

Reid, as he is wont to do, has tempered his comments about Cox. He said Wednesday that Cox has gotten better with each week. Cox said he made his biggest jump between the first and second preseason games. The same may happen during the first two weeks of the regular season - or it may take longer.

"He's already nervous because he wants to prove to everybody he was worth the pick," said Brandon Graham, the Eagles' No. 1 draft pick in 2010. "That's one thing that you do as a top pick - you want to prove that they didn't waste no pick."

It is difficult for a rookie to make an impact at defensive tackle. Seymour was inactive for New England's 2001 season opener and did not record his first career sack until the eighth game. A few, such as the Detroit Lions' Ndamukong Suh, dominated as rookies.

"He's made great progress from the start," Jenkins said of Cox. "For him, it's carrying over the preseason to the game - first one under the lights Sunday."

It's a day game, but Jenkins was not talking about stadium lights.


Contact Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745 or jmclane@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @Jeff_McLane.

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