As the twelfth pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox is being counted on to contribute to the Philadelphia Eagles’ ‘wide nine’ defense fairly early in his career.
With the news today coming out of training camp concerning Mike Patterson, incumbent starter at tackle, Cox’s contributions may need to come earlier.
Patterson, the first round pick of Philadelphia’s in 2005, had brain surgery this offseason to remove an arteriovenous malformation. Patterson collapsed at practice on August 3, 2011 with a seizure related to the condition. Bleeding from the mouth after biting his tongue, Patterson suffered through the seizure for four minutes while rookie lineman Danny Watkins, a firefighter trained in CPR, provided first response.
Amazingly, Patterson started in fifteen games during the 2011 season, garnering twenty-six tackles and two and a half sacks. Patterson had played in 110 of a possible 112 games since joining the Eagles in 2005.
With the surgery complete, without any apparent complications, Patterson is expected to play again, although caution is being taken to ensure complete recovery. Though the surgery was performed this past January 26 in Phoenix, the cranial area hasn’t healed enough for doctors’ comfort.
As it stands now, Patterson will not participate in Eagles’ training camp. There’s the possibility that he could even miss a couple more months recuperating.
"We're all optimistic he'll play again, just not today," said Rick Burkholder, the Eagles’ head athletic trainer.
While the Eagles err on the side of caution, they will look to the bench at suitable replacements to play alongside veteran Cullen Jenkins on the inside of the line.
The three best available choices include Antonio Dixon, who started ten games in place of Brodrick Bunkley in 2010, but missed twelve games last season with a triceps tear. Another solid pick is Derek Landri, who signed a one-year deal this spring to remain in Philadelphia. Landri proved to be a solid run-stopper off the bench, lauded by teammates for his aggressiveness and work ethic.
And then, there’s Fletcher Cox.
At 6’4”, 296 lbs, and with incredible quickness for a player of his size, the twenty-one year old out of Mississippi State figured to be the havoc-wreaking pass rusher of the future for Jim Washburn’s defensive line. Although many fans thought Cox would be a sure opening-day starter in his rookie year, indications are that the Eagles wanted to work him in slowly in their varied formations as a second-and-long/third-and-long pass rusher, while still employing Patterson and Jenkins as the starters.
With Patterson’s immediate future in question, Cox may get that starting nod after all, at least early on in the 2012 season.