There are times during Eagles practice, often quite a few times, when the whistle blows to end a play and third-string quarterback Thad Lewis, who leads the scout team against the starting defense, will find Fletcher Cox standing next to him.

"I would have hit you on that play," Cox says, before returning to his side of the line of scrimmage.

"I tell him, 'That's good. I look forward to seeing it on Sunday,' " Lewis said.

This week, the game is on Monday instead of Sunday, but Lewis and the rest of the Eagles will again be looking forward to watching Cox go against another quarterback without the protection of a red practice jersey.

"You always have to account for him. He can go," Lewis said. "He's just a master of his craft. We all saw it displayed last Sunday, but we see it every day throughout the week. Put him anywhere, and he's a problem."

Cox was a definite problem for Drew Brees and the Saints. He sacked Brees three times, caused two fumbles, recovered one of them, tackled a running back for a loss, and hit Brees another three times just for good measure.

"Brees was pretty upset at his left tackle because Fletcher kept getting his hands on him. A few times I heard Brees cuss," nose tackle Bennie Logan said. "He was frustrated that Fletcher was in his face, and who wouldn't be? You got a guy steaming down your neck the whole game like that?"

The game earned Cox, who is quiet and not much of a self-promoter, some rare national recognition. He was named NFC defensive player of the week for the first time in his four-year career.

"He's been a special player ever since I've been here," outside linebacker Connor Barwin said. "I don't need to run his campaign anymore. It's going to happen for itself."

What makes Cox special is his versatility. He's strong and yet fast for a 6-foot-4, 300-pound man. The Eagles use him at his natural end position, but also line him up at nose tackle, stand him up like a linebacker, and move him wherever he might cause the most disruption.

"You can't just say, 'There he is. Here's how we're going to double-team him,' " coordinator Billy Davis said. "The fact that we can move him around is due to his intelligence and understanding of football."

In an odd coincidence, the NFC defensive player of the week will be trying to disrupt the NFC offensive player of the week on Monday night in a matchup that might well be the most important one of the game. Giants quarterback Eli Manning is coming off a win over San Francisco in which he threw a franchise record 41 completions for 491 yards, including three touchdowns.

The Giants have problems, including some instability on the line and receivers working through injuries, but Manning has been good enough to keep the offense above water so far. New York has won three straight games and its 3-2 record might not reflect how good it is. The opening two losses - by one point to Dallas and by four to Atlanta - both came after the Giants held fourth-quarter leads. Manning has thrown just two interceptions to go with 10 touchdowns in 197 attempts this season, and he's been sacked only four times.

"That means two things: He's getting rid of the ball, and they're doing a good job of blocking," Cox said. "We know he's one of the greatest quarterbacks in the league."

A year ago, in the sixth game of the season, the Giants came to Lincoln Financial Field for a night showdown in a very similar situation. New York was 3-2 and had won three straight, but the Eagles sacked Manning six times in a 27-0 blowout. Cox didn't get any of those sacks (or either of the two registered against backup Ryan Nassib), but he drew enough attention to help make them possible. Monday, Cox will be the one with the hot hand that Manning will have to make a priority for his protection schemes.

"I control what I control. I do consider myself one of the best defensive linemen in the league, but that doesn't come easy. You've got to work for it and be greedy about it," Cox said. "Even without any of those sacks, if I can spin the quarterback out of there, it's going to pay off for guys like Vinny [Curry] and Ced [Thornton]. I can't wait."

The defensive line - with Cox, Thornton, and nose tackle Bennie Logan starting, and Curry, who also takes snaps at outside linebacker, Taylor Hart, and Beau Allen in backup roles - is the strongest unit on the team. They're good, and they work, but none has to work as much as Cox, who has played 318 snaps this season (Logan is next with 232) and is on pace to play almost 100 more than the 921 he took in 2014.

"For how big he is, he's obviously strong, but he's also explosive. If you're anchoring down for his power moves, he can beat you with his speed moves, and vice versa," said offensive tackle Dennis Kelly, who often matches up against Cox in practice. "It wasn't a surprise to us what he did on Sunday. It wasn't like, 'Oh, hey, Fletch is having a good game.' It was, 'Yep, Fletch is having a game.' "

Cox did have one against the Saints. Two in a row might not make him player of the week again, but he could at least keep Eli Manning from repeating.

bford@phillynews.com

@bobfordsports