Two Problematic Eagles: Fletcher Cox and Zach Ertz


CHARLOTTE – As their Super Bowl rings suggest, the Philadelphia Eagles have a ton of talent on both sides of the ball.

Two players in particular, tight end Zach Ertz and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, are among the best in the league at their respective positions.

Ertz, who leads Philly with 48 catches, is second in the NFL in receptions behind only Vikings receiver Adam Thielen.

"He's a guy who is really talented and can really run routes with good change of direction. He's everything you're looking for," tight end Greg Olsen said. "He plays the game the right way and he's on pace to have a really big season."

Cox, who leads the Eagles with four sacks, is the second-highest rated defensive player in the league according to Pro Football Focus, trailing only Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

"He's definitely elite," said defensive tackle Kyle Love, who played with Cox at Mississippi State. "With his height, weight, strength, arm length – it's hard to block a guy who is built like that. So strong. And he'll outwork people. With his will to get to the ball, he's a hard person to stop."

Let's take a closer look at the problems these two Eagles present.

The clip below is from Carolina's loss to Philadelphia in Week 6 of the 2017 season. Ertz caught two passes, both for touchdowns, in the Eagles' 28-23 victory at Bank of America Stadium.

Take another look at his 17-yard score. You can see he's lined up out wide across from cornerback James Bradberry, who hands him off to safety Mike Adams.

"He's one of the 'wide receiver' tight ends," linebacker Shaq Thompson said. "He's hard to guard one-on-one."

After some pre-snap communication with quarterback Carson Wentz, Ertz gives a slight fake to Adams, causing the safety to stop. That's all Ertz needs to get inside leverage, and Wentz puts the ball up high for his tight end to go up and get it.

It's a great example of Ertz's red zone effectiveness. It was on display last week against the Giants, as Ertz shook cornerback Janoris Jenkins on a corner route for what looked like an easy 10-yard touchdown grab.

"They have stuff drawn up for him that gets him open, and what makes him good is he runs really good routes and he's got great feel," linebacker Luke Kuechly said. "He kind of reminds of Greg (Olsen) a little bit with his ability to (adjust) a route or sit in a window so Cam (Newton) can put it on him. He's a smart player who knows how to get open."

Cox may not have scored two touchdowns like Ertz in last year's meeting, but he also had a huge say in the outcome.

It was his pressure that created a takeaway to set up the Eagles offense with the ball at Carolina's 12-yard line.

You can see for yourself in the clip below.

Cox fired off the snap with so much power and violence, it forced Pro Bowl right guard Trai Turner back into his quarterback. Cox then reached out and altered Newton's throw, sending the ball high into the air for the interception.

"He's a big man. He's strong. He can collapse the pocket," center Ryan Kalil said. "He's a big factor. He causes you to find out where he is on the field. You send extra help if you can, and that's another way that he's a factor."

A one-on-one situation against Cox is a tough assignment for any offensive lineman. Here's more proof from last year's game.

Cox combined with Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham for a sack with the Panthers looking to score just before halftime.

Newton tried to step up in the pocket to avoid Graham's edge rush, but Cox had already collapsed the pocket and was there waiting.

"We've definitely got our hands full," Kalil said, looking ahead to Sunday's game, "that's for sure."