By Joseph Santoliquito

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The promise has always come in drips and drabs. Fletcher Cox is one of the better defensive tackles in the NFL, though not exactly the best. Opposing offenses did game plan for him last year, though he didn’t necessarily help himself.

The fact is, Cox regressed in 2016. Personal foul penalties in games against Detroit and Washington cost the Eagles. He was supposed to be a better pass rusher in Jim Schwartz’s 4-3 scheme, yet he had fewer sacks in 2016 (6.5) than he did in 2015 (9.5) in a 3-4 alignment. His tackles dropped last year from 50 in 2015, to 27 last year. His stuffs fell from 6 in 2015, to 4 last year.

Sense a pattern?

Cox, who will be entering his sixth year with the Eagles—and second season under a $103-million deal, was inconsistent at best in 2016. He’s supposed to be the foundation of the defense, and he looked the part through the first quarter of 2016, with four sacks in four games, then he went poof—going eight-straight games without a sack.

Hopefully with the addition of first-round draft pick Derek Barnett and free-agent signee Chris Long ending some pressure from the edge, offensive lines may be forced to pay less attention to Cox inside.

Missing the first week of OTAs didn’t exactly help Cox’s cause if he plans on emerging as being a leader on the 2017 Eagles. And he knows it.

“The contract I got last year, the team expects [leadership] from me,” Cox said. “They know what type of guy I am. I know what type of guy I am. I get a bunch of respect from guys in this locker room, and you expect it.”

He also said he’s slimmed down from last year, playing closer to 310 than his playing weight of 320 last year.

The scary thing, Cox thought he played to his abilities in 2016.

“I went to the Pro Bowl. I don’t think it was a down year,” he said. “I had a solid year. It could have been better. As a team, it could have been better. At the same time, that’s what we use this offseason, to get better.”

So far in five years, Cox has shown signs he’s a good player. Nothing as emerged yet to say he’s a great player.


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