Fletcher Cox isn’t used to watching training camp from the sidelines, but the Philadelphia Eagles All-Pro defensive tackle hadn’t experienced a significant offseason surgery in his seven-year NFL career. Cox had surgery to repair damage on his right foot sustained from the Eagles’ NFC divisional playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints this past January, limiting him to individual drills for the start of camp. 

The Eagles are making sure Cox is ready for the season opener on Sept. 8, which is why they chose to take a cautious approach with Cox in training camp. 

“I’ve just tried to be smart about it and follow the plan,” Cox said to Philly.com. “Everything is on schedule. I just need to keep following what the [Eagles] trainers tell me to do.”

Cox earned his fourth All-Pro selection in five years last season, but his first on the First Team. He was a force at defensive tackle in 2018, finishing with 95 pressures, 60 hurries, 34 quarterback hits, 10.5 sacks, 46 tackles, 30 stops, and 12 tackles for loss. The 95 pressures were a career-high, shattering his previous high of 77 in 2015. Cox also had a career-high in quarterback hits, with his previous high being 20 in 2015.

While the Eagles will miss Cox for the time being, they certainly prepared for a prolonged absence. The Eagles signed Malik Jackson to a three-year contract as a three-down defensive tackle to take the double team off Cox. The Eagles also brought back Tim Jernigan on a one-year contract, giving them depth in case Cox has his snaps limited to start the season.

Jernigan can start the year next to Jackson in case Cox does miss Week 1. The Eagles aren’t going to rush Cox back onto the field, especially since he’s the best player on their defense. Despite Cox missing the physical portion of practice, he’s getting the mental reps needed with all the other injured Eagles at camp. 

“You guys see him and you guys hear him probably more than any other player because he’s in the practice — and we ask all our guys that are doing that, whether it’s [Ronald] Darby, Rodney [McLeod], Jalen Mills, Fletch, all those guys that are working their way back to stay connected to the team,” said Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. 

“Some of our best players, they are always talking to the other players and they are also keeping that energy up during practice and they are getting their rehab time in. They are not missing that, but they are also staying active with our other guys and I think that’s important, particularly a guy like Fletch that’s one of the leaders of our team and it’s important that he stays in that role.”