Former Eagles DE Explains What Will Be Missing Without Team Leader

Former Eagles DE Chris Long recently discussed what Fletcher Cox meant to the Eagles.
Former Eagles DE Chris Long
Former Eagles DE Chris Long / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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PHILADELPHIA - Former two-time Super Bowl champion Chris Long was always a very cerebral player during his 11-year NFL career.

A former Walter Payton Man of the Year and two-time winner of the PFWA’s Good Guy Award for helping the media do its job, Long’s football IQ and understanding of the game are still regularly highlighted on his own “Green Light Podcast”.

Long ended his NFL journey as the 2008 No. 2 overall pick with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2017-18 where he was a key rotational pass-rushing presence of the franchise’s Super Bowl LII-winning team. 

During that time, Long got the front-row view of six-time Pro Bowl selection Fletcher Cox at the height of his career when Cox was perhaps the best pure football player on a Super Bowl-winning team.

Appearing on the “The Favorites” podcast, Long was asked about playing with then-St. Louis Rams future Hall of Famer Aaron Donald before pivoting to the bookend of his career with the Eagles' Cox, who retired this offseason after his own brilliant 12-year career.

"One of my biggest regrets was not staying healthier at the end of my tenure in St. Louis, because we had such a great line, and Aaron Donald was a big part of it,” Long said. “Obviously, I got banged up and was released two years later. Me and Aaron barely crossed over when it came to me being at my best.

"With Aaron on the team, it frees up a lot for other people. You know where they are going to pay attention.”

Long then turned to Cox, a four-time All-Pro.

"I also got to play with Fletcher Cox late in my career, and Fletcher Cox is the perfect type of superstar to play with because he is so team-oriented,” Long said. “There were times when, for Fletcher, it didn't matter who would get home [on the pass rush].  He knew what he was creating, and he didn't have to be the one to make the play, and you could make the play off of him.”

According to multiple team sources, one of the defensive issues during the Eagles’ collapse last season was freelancing on the defensive front.

With the defensive backfield both talent-deficient and injury-riddled, too many Eagles’ pass rushers went into business for themselves when the wheels began to fall off only exacerbating the problem.

Without Cox this season a host of younger players need to be ready to step up inside like the Georgia duo of Jordan Davis and Jalen Carter, as well as first-time starter Milton Williams making discipline on the pass rush will be something to keep an eye on.

All of those players will be a big key for the Eagles’ presumptive top edge rushers in 2024: free-agent acquisition Bryce Huff, veterans Josh Sweat and Brandon Graham, and another Georgia hopeful with talent in second-year man Nolan Smith.

"People always ask, ‘What's most beneficial, having a great rusher inside or having a great rusher opposite of you (on the outside)?’ And as good as it is to talk about the bookends, I think having a guy inside is truly transformational for an edge-rusher,” Long said.

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John McMullen

JOHN MCMULLEN

John McMullen is a veteran reporter who has covered the NFL for over two decades. The current NFL insider for JAKIB Media, John is the former NFL Editor for The Sports Network where his syndicated column was featured in over 200 outlets including the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and Miami Herald. He was also the national NFL columnist for Today's Pigskin as well as FanRag Sports. McMullen has covered the Eagles on a daily basis since 2016, first for ESPN South Jersey and now for Eagles Today on SI.com's FanNation. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on YouTube.com. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey and part of 6ABC.com's live postgame show after every Eagles game. You can reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen