Though the Philadelphia Eagles' defense struggled early in the 2013 season, the unit has been improving in recent weeks. The bright spot of the Eagles' improving defense is none other than the guys up front: Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton. These starting 3-4 defensive ends have been playing well all season.
Cox and Thornton each bring their own unique strength to the team. Cox rushes the passer well while Thornton is stout against the run. In the Eagles' loss to the Giants, Cox was the Eagles' best graded player on defense. He finished with 1 sack, 3 hurries, 4 tackles, and 5 stops. Thornton, to no one's surprise, was the Eagles' second best player. He contributed with 5 tackles, 1 assisted, and 3 stops. Their performances contributed to the Giants only managing 15 points (all field goals) against the Eagles.
It's very possible Thornton and Cox are among the best starting 3-4 DE combinations in the league. The New York Jets (Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson) probably have the best pair, but the Eagles' young duo is right up there. Fletcher Cox is PFF's 4th best rated 3-4 DE and Thornton is 12th. Cox has the 3rd best pass rushing rating and Thornton owns the 2nd best run defense grade.
Not only are these two players Teammates of the Week, but they are an encouraging sign for the Eagles' defense moving forward.