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#pounditWednesday, December 8, 2021

Fletcher Cox goes off on Eagles over defensive scheme

Fletcher Cox

Frustration in the Philadelphia Eagles camp boiled over Sunday after the team’s 33-22 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders.

Veteran defensive lineman Fletcher Cox openly criticized the team’s defensive scheme following the loss. Cox was highly critical of the lack of aggressiveness on defense, adding that while he wasn’t mad at coach Nick Sirianni, he disagreed with the team’s defensive playcalling.

“I don’t get paid to play screens. I get paid to sack the quarterback, play in the backfield, tackle,” Cox said. “In the grand scheme of things, you’ve got to play what’s being called. I’m an aggressive player and that’s how I made my living, playing in the backfield and splitting double teams. I’m not used to double teams just standing on me two, three yards down the field.”

Cox added that his role in the defense has changed under the team’s new coaching staff, and indicated the new scheme does not play to his strengths.

Cox implied that the lack of aggression led to Raiders quarterback Derek Carr’s huge day. Carr went 31-of-34 for 323 yards against the Eagles, and Cox blamed those gaudy numbers on a lack of pressure.

It’s hard not to read this as a direct criticism of defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon. Gannon prefers a conservative defensive scheme with a lot of zone coverage and few blitzes in order to avoid giving up big plays. The Eagles came into Sunday with the second-lowest rate of blitzes per dropback in the league, and also rank in the bottom ten in QB hurries. That approach seemed to work in the first two games of the season, but Philadelphia has given up 28 points or more in four of the last five games.

Cox is a ten-year veteran and a defensive captain, so when he speaks like this it’s notable. He’s been unafraid to be critical of some organizational decisions before, but this is a pretty direct call for change.

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