LANDOVER, Md. – Fletcher Cox dusted off the worm early.
The first quarter was barely halfway over when he found Carson Wentz a sitting duck in the pocket. He shared a sack on the Commanders’ first possession with Josh Sweat.
Later in the first quarter, he got one all to himself. That’s when he began sliding on his belly of the FedEx Field turf.
It was the beginning of a special day for the defense, and Cox set the tone with 1.5 of the day’s first two sacks. From there, the defensive line ate, chomping away at their former quarterback.
They sacked him nine times.
“Loved it,” said Haason Reddick, who notched his first 1.5 sacks as an Eagle. “Fletch, he’s one of the great leaders on this team, one of the great Eagles, and he’s still doing it at a high level.
"To see him continue to ball, he’s just doing everything we’ve talked about at the beginning of the season, just to keep it up, keep playing as well as he has. If he can continue to play like that and set the tone, we’ll continue to rally, we’ll continue to play at an extremely high level as a defense.”
Cox was under a lot of heat after the season opener, with many thinking he was washed up with his 32nd birthday on December’s horizon.
He’s not and he’s proving it.
“I did some things to change myself,” said Cox in the aftermath of the Eagles’ 24-8 win over the Washington Commanders at FedEx Field on Sunday.
“The way I eat is a little different. This year I’m making sure I’m not letting anything get in my way. Like I said earlier in the preseason, last year I got in my own way. I’m happy, having fun, it’s one reason I came back.”
The Eagles don’t have just one veteran still playing at a high level on that defensive line, but two with Brandon Graham, who is 34.
Graham had 2.5 sacks and his strip-sack of Carson Wentz at the Washington 24, set up the Eagles' first TD of the game, a 23-yard screen pass from Jalen Hurts to Dallas Goedert in the second quarter.
“First half, we were hitting him, and that’s the No. 1 thing as a D-lineman,” said Graham. “You just want to hit him, and we were getting sacks, too. Those hits add up. I felt like we were starting like we wanted to start. We just wanted to make sure we didn’t let up.”
Cox and Graham were once teammates with Wentz. The Eagles’ former second overall pick in 2016 and Cox shared a hug in the end zone during warmups.
“It was weird,’ said Cox. “It was weird to see him in another color. I respect the hell out of Carson. He’s a competitor, a hard worker, but he was on the other side (Sunday).”
Cox and Graham have been teammates for 11 years, since Cox arrived in 2012. Graham arrived in 2010.
The two veterans are neck-and-neck in all-time sacks, with both now having 61. They each have three this season.
Cox said he and Graham, who are close friends and have had a locker next to each other since both became Eagles, do not talk about who is going to finish with more sacks.
Right now, they are in the top five in the team’s all-time history behind Reggie White (124), Trent Cole (85), and Clyde Simmons (76).
“No, we don’t really talk about it,” said Cox. “Wherever we end up at we end up at. I’ve been here 11 years, it’s his 13th year. We just go out and get it done. Wherever we ended up, we end, but right now, we’re going neck and neck.”
The Eagles' defense dominated in a first half that saw them run out to a 24-0 lead, compiling six of their nine sacks while holding Washington to 0 points and 50 total yards. They added two forced fumbles.
The unit has allowed just one touchdown in wins over the Commanders and last week against the Vikings. They have 11 sacks in those two games after not getting any in the season opener at Detroit.
Six players notched a sack against Washington.
“We thought they could get after them a little bit, and they did,” said head coach Nick Sirianni. “That’s the strength of our team. That's what you want, a division game, and you want the strength of your team to play like they did right there.”
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Fan Nation Eagles Today and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglesmaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.