Fletcher Cox, Lane Johnson are Leading with Will

John McMullen

PHILADELPHIA - If the Eagles are able to rebound from their ugly 0-2-1 start to the 2020 season you’ll be able to trace the turnaround back to a pair of the team’s veteran leaders, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and offensive tackle Lane Johnson.

Not much has gone Philadelphia’s way so far but coach Doug Pederson can and should hang his hat on two of his most proven players.

With eight Pro Bowl selections between them, Cox and Johnson probably shouldn’t be on the field right now due to injuries, and many players with similar ailments wouldn’t be.

Cox suffered an oblique strain against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 2 and was shut down for Wednesday and Thursday practices of last week. By Friday, however, the five-time Pro Bowler was back for a light walkthrough with an eye on Sunday and Cincinnati.

The ensuing 23-23 tie left few satisfied, but the result could have been worse without Cox, who dominated, particularly in the overtime session.

By Wednesday of this week, Cox was back in mothballs as the Eagles try to calm down the injury with an eye on him being on the field again Sunday night against the 49ers.

"I just listen to the training staff. I trusted them," said Cox.

Cox was particularly effusive when it came to the Eagles director of sports medicine Tom Hukele, who returned to Philadelphia this offseason after 14 seasons in Minnesota, Ted Rath, the new director of sports performance who is probably better known as Sean McVay's former "get-back coach," as well as the training staff led by Jerome Reid.

"Everybody in that training room, trusted everybody in there," Cox said. "I basically lived in the training room all last week. So, you know, just trying to get myself ready to go. So I know what kind of injury it was, and I had to be smart about it.

“Toward the end of the week, I was able to move around a little bit more and woke up on Sunday and felt like I'd go out and do whatever it takes to help this team."

Later Cox added the final ingredient to his ability to get on the field, his will.

"I think I said this, like, probably a couple years ago, 'in order for me to not to be put back in the game you had to literally break a bone in my body, where I absolutely can’t walk'," said Cox. "I’ll do anything for his team, man. I’ve shown it, and if I can go I’m going."

Others have taken notice,

“I mean, Fletch is a different dude, man," said fellow DT Javon Hargrave, who has had his own issues with pec and hamstring strains. "He got that country strong, so I’m not really surprised. He got some real-life mutant abilities."

As for Johnson, the tough-minded three-time Pro Bowl RT missed the opener after late-August ankle surgery after aggravating a prior injury from 2018 during a live practice at the NovaCare Complex. He needed what he described as "tightrope surgery."

Johnson is nowhere near 100 percent right now but was back on the field less than a month after the surgery and expects to slowly progress as the season moves forward.

For now, the issue is swelling. The lengthy bus trip down to Landover cost him Week 1 and the swelling returns after the games he has played.

"It is getting better," he said. "It's just something you have to take week by week. A lot of times after the games the swelling gets pretty bad for the first couple of days and towards the end of the week, it settles down. But something I got to work through."

Johnson was limited in practice on Wednesday but again there is little doubt he'll be on the field against the 49ers.

Leadership by example is often a cliche but not in the case of two of the Eagles’ best.

John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every Monday and Friday on SIRIUSXM and every Monday and Thursday with Eytan Shander on SportsMap Radio. He’s also the host of Extending the Play on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

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