BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — As if Fletcher Cox doesn’t offer enough of an imposing presence with his play as an All-Pro defensive tackle for the Eagles, the green mask he wore Wednesday only added to the aura.
Seated on a makeshift stage during the Eagles’ Super Bowl LII media availability session, Cox was given the mask — shaped like an Eagles helmet without the facemask — as a gift by a reporter from a Mexican television station.
“[The reporter] told me that if I wore it, I would have super powers, so I put it on,” Cox said.
As far as Patriots coach Bill Belichick is concerned, the 6-4, 310-pound Cox doesn’t need the mask for super powers. He’s already a disruptive presence who concerns Belichick as he prepares to face the Eagles on Sunday.
“Cox is as good as anybody in the league at his position,” Belichick said. “He’s a very disruptive player, hard to block, run, pass, no matter what it is, good edge rush, and they come hard every play. There’s no plays off so you have to block them hard every play.”
Belichick has good reason to be concerned about Cox, as well as the rest of the Eagles’ defensive front. Philadelphia has one of the NFL’s best pass rush units, and with Cox providing a major presence in the middle of the line, he will try and take advantage of one of the Patriots’ few weaknesses.
As the Giants were able to do in both their Super Bowl victories over the Patriots after the 2007 and 2011 seasons, the Eagles hope to get to Tom Brady with a strong inside pass rush. The shortest distance to get to Brady is right up the middle, and Cox is one of the best in the business when it comes to creating havoc there.
“I think we’ve done a pretty good job of getting a push up the middle, and not guys just doing ‘fly-bys’ [from the outside],” Cox said.
“It’s a very disruptive group, hard to run against, hard to throw against, and they’re well coached, very instinctive in their screens and plays like,” Belichick said. “Draws, screens, play action, they blow those plays up, too. They have a lot of good players. They have good inside rushers, good outside rushers.”
Cox is the best of them all, and he doesn’t need a mask to draw any extra attention to himself. Especially from the Patriots.
Cox has a combined 13 sacks over the last two seasons, and the Eagles’ defense has done a terrific job in shutting down its first two playoff opponents. Philadelphia got past the Falcons, 15-10 in the divisional round and then blew out the Vikings, 38-7, in the NFC Championship Game.
Can they unseat the defending champion Patriots?
“We’re a confident group,” Cox said.
The key is making sure the stage isn’t too big for them.
“We’ve got to go out there and play our game,” he said.
And that means not getting too tight, especially in the run-up to the Super Bowl.
“We’re not tight,” he said. “You can’t go into this thing uptight. You have to know when it’s time to have fun, and also be professional about it.”
The time to have fun was Wednesday. By Sunday, the helmet mask will be gone and the real helmet will be in its place.
“You have to embrace every opportunity,” Cox said. “You have to live in the moment. That’s what this team has been doing all year.”
He’s hoping to live in the moment one last time, and come away with a Super Bowl ring as his reward.