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NFC East awards: Fletcher Cox is defensive player of the year again

Eagles defensive lineman Fletcher Cox had a career-high 9.5 sacks this season and was named to the Pro Bowl. AP Photo/Michael Perez

NFL Nation reporters from the NFC East -- Phil Sheridan, Dan Graziano, John Keim and Todd Archer -- have crunched the numbers, ran through the analysis, double-checked their notes and gone with some gut feelings.

This week, they are offering up their NFC East Awards.

So far the Rookie of the Year has gone to Washington’s Preston Smith and Coach of the Year to Washington’s Jay Gruden.

Today, the Defensive Player of the Year award goes to Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Fletcher Cox.

Cox is a repeat selection, having won the award in 2014. In 2015 Cox was rightly named to the Pro Bowl after getting snubbed the previous year. He put up 9.5 sacks, which is not just a career high but equals his two previous best seasons combined. If the Eagles change schemes, Cox will flourish no matter where he plays.

He is strong against the run. He has shown he can get to the passer. He is the most disruptive defensive lineman in the division and one of the best in the league.

But his vote wasn’t unanimous. Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee also earned a vote.

Here is why our writers voted the way they did:

Phil Sheridan: A year ago, Chip Kelly said Fletcher Cox was the team’s MVP. Cox was even better in 2015. His disruptive presence frustrated accomplished players like Drew Brees and Eli Manning and Tom Brady. After the Eagles shut down LeSean McCoy and the Bills, Buffalo coach Rex Ryan said he now understood why people compared Cox to the late Jerome Brown, the former Eagles great drafted by Ryan’s father Buddy.

Todd Archer: In 2014, I thought Fletcher Cox was the best defensive player the Cowboys played against, and that included J.J. Watt. Cox had a tremendous season, but I just had a hard time picking a player from a defense that finished no better than 28th in total defense, pass defense, run defense and points allowed. So that’s why I went with Sean Lee. Like my Rookie of the Year choice of Byron Jones, maybe it’s a homer selection, but in 14 games Lee’s numbers were staggering, and the Cowboys had the 17th ranked defense. The coaches credited him with 156 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 11 tackles for loss, six hurries, an interception and five pass deflections, all after missing 2014 with a knee injury.

Dan Graziano: Talk to offensive coordinators who have to game-plan for the Eagles and they'll tell you Fletcher Cox is the guy who worries them. What's most impressive about this guy is that his primary responsibilities don't entail getting into the backfield, but he manages to take care of those responsibilities and still do it anyway. He's as disruptive as he is based on his talent and his motor, and whatever they end up doing on defense going forward they should do it around him as a front-seven anchor for the foreseeable future.

John Keim: I’ve long enjoyed watching Fletcher Cox play, and it was nice to see him finally rewarded with a Pro Bowl bid this season. But his numbers demanded he be included this season; in the past they were good, but this year they were great. He finished with 9.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. He and Bennie Logan give the Eagles a terrific twosome along the line, but Cox was good even when Logan was injured late in the year. The Eagles’ defensive lineman is a matchup problem and a dominant force inside. He continued to show his versatility, lining up over center or at either end and being effective from all spots.