By Joseph Santoliquito

PHILADELPHIA (CBS)—A momentary smile flashed across the face of Fletcher Cox at the thought: Being in the same defense for another year.

It should be refreshing entering his third NFL season knowing what to expect, what’s ahead and what the scheme is going to be.

Cox showed glimpses of being a future star this past season, making 41 tackles, second on the defense line behind Cedric Thornton’s 60, and picking up three sacks, which Cox acknowledges needs improving on next year.

“I’ll take a couple of weeks off, but I don’t want to take too much time off,” Cox said. “I know this defense is heading in the right direction, because of the way we as an organization came together. I think learning the system and learning all of the things the coaches had me do helped me a whole lot just progressing and working hard.”

Cox said he absorbed everything defensive coordinator Billy Davis was putting in. He liked the challenge of consuming something new, a stark change from the Wide-9 last year. It showed himself and the NFL that he can play in any type of defense.

Cox still felt the sting of the Eagles’ 26-24 last-second loss to the New Orleans Saints in the wildcard round of the NFC playoffs last Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field.

The Eagles’ defensive line didn’t necessarily have a good game. The young front of Thornton, nose tackle Bennie Logan and Cox got pushed around, particularly in third- and fourth-and-short situations. Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees burrowed his way to 13 yards on five quarterback sneaks.

But looking at what this front did over the course of the whole season, great strides were made. Another year in the system should produce even more improvement.

“I think the defense can be something special,” Cox said. “We all stuck together this season through the good times and the bad times. Everyone made mistakes and we all learned from those mistakes. As long as we keep that up, we’re heading in the right direction.”

Next year Cox is looking toward the possibility of an All-Pro season. He’s raising his standards and admits he didn’t finish with the amount of sacks that wanted.

“I only finished the season with three sacks this year,” he said. “As a d-lineman, I want to compete and be better than I was. This year, I took a step forward in that process.”