Fletcher Cox Still Has Boxes to Check Off
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Fletcher Cox has officially done it all in the NFL, or has he?
From highly-touted first-round pick to Pro Bowl selection to All-Pro to $100 million-dollar man, Cox tied the bow on this impressive success story with a Super Bowl LII championship back in February.
Heck, Fletcher is so accomplished that the folks back in his hometown of Yazoo City, Mississippi renamed the main drag from River Road to Fletcher Cox Road after the Eagles dispatched of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to win the Lombardi Trophy.
At 27, Cox has arguably checked off every box he needs for a trip to Canton one day with the possible exception of longevity. A few more years at his current level of play and his 6-foot-4, 310-pound frame will be getting fitted for a gold jacket.
Perhaps the only thing that can deter the GPS from ultimately pointing toward Northeast Ohio is human nature and Cox kicking his feet back while admiring his own work but don't bet on it.
"The next box for me, and I'm not scared to say, I've had multiple Pro Bowls, I won the Super Bowl. The next thing for me is to be Defensive Player of the Year," Cox told reporters at the NovaCare Complex last month. "That's my thing. I've been working towards that."
That's a lofty goal but one that's been accomplished by other disruptive defensive linemen in the recent past like Houston's J.J. Watt and the one interior player who most believe may be even better than Cox, the Los Angeles Rams' Aaron Donald.
In Philadelphia lore, only one player has ever accomplished the feat, the legendary Reggie White back in 1987.
For Cox, the best D-Lineman the Eagles have had since White, this is the time where success come September is built and a short offseason helps at least one goal: staying in shape.
"I think the most important thing is for me to keep myself in shape," Cox admitted. "Once I keep myself in shape and keep myself in the same routine, maybe switch a few things up but keep myself in the same routine. It makes me a better player, makes me a better person and a better teammate."
The second is avoiding a Super Bowl hangover.
“We have to focus on this offseason and not look too far ahead," Cox said. "The biggest thing is, will this team stay focused? I know we will. Another challenge is going to be trusting the process we are going through and everything the coaches are feeding us and continue to build on it each day.”
Cox remains the best player on the league's best defensive line for a reason and while it starts with his God-given physical skills it ends where greatness is defined in most sports -- when those gifts mesh with a relentless work ethic.
Cox has already talked about cleaning up some technique issues he's noticed on film and is intent on making sure the new faces on the line -- veterans Michael Bennett and Haloti Ngata -- are integrated seamlessly.
"We have to trust each other," Cox explained. "That’s the biggest thing. It’s going to be the biggest thing with [defensive line coach] Chris [Wilson], the players trusting Chris. The new players have to learn the defense and everybody has to play up to speed. They’ve brought in veteran players who are going to do that."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen