For Philadelphia Eagles’ Fletcher Cox, partnership with Michael Bennett years in the making
Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox played with Michael Bennett in the Pro Bowl before they became teammates in Philly this offseason. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA — A few years ago, Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said he lined up in the Pro Bowl next to Michael Bennett, then a member of the Seahawks. The duo quickly learned it had the talent to burst through lines and harass quarterbacks.
That experience came to Cox’s mind when the Eagles traded for Bennett in March — mostly because of what Bennett said to him that day.
“We was at the Pro Bowl, and he said, ‘Man, I wish I was rushing next to you,'” Cox said. “You look at it, years later, we get a chance to do that, and I’m pretty excited about it.”
So are many Philadelphia fans. Bennett, 32, has been one of the NFL’s most productive pass rushers over the past five seasons, piling up 39 sacks over that span and earning three Pro Bowl nods.
He could combine with Cox, Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett and Chris Long to give the Birds one of the most dominant and versatile groups of pass rushers in the league.
Bennett will enter the Eagles locker room with his own, outspoken style of leadership that differs from Cox’s quiet presence or Graham’s knack for smiling and teasing teammates. That’s OK, Cox said. He thinks it’s the right combination of personalities to keep locker room harmony.
“There’ll be no bumping heads in [defensive line meetings], that’s for sure,” Cox said.
Still, there will be an adjustment period as the Eagles bring Bennett and veteran defensive tackle Haloti Ngata into the mix. Cox might have lined up next to Bennett for a few plays in the Pro Bowl, but he entered the league and played six seasons with defensive end Vinny Curry, whom the team cut earlier this offseason.
Beau Allen spent four years rotating in as a reserve defensive tackle for the Eagles before leaving in free agency. Allen and Curry are beginning anew with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, while Cox is preparing to see if and Bennett can recapture their Pro Bowl success in games that matter.
“You gotta build chemistry with those guys,” Cox said of Ngata and Bennett. “Learn what those teammates do really good and try to learn from them. And just get them up to speed on the way we do things around here.”
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