FRANK REICH said something about Carson Wentz on Thursday that, from an emotional sense, might also be applied to Fletcher Cox. Analyzing the rookie quarterback's response to being hit, harried and hurried over the last two weeks and particularly last Sunday, Reich said: "It usually has an effect on most quarterbacks, to be honest with you. Everybody knows that in this business. You have to regroup from it, but it's hard to stand back there and get hit early and not let it affect you."

Happy feet. Deer in the headlights. Those are terms of frustration for a quarterback more than they are of fear. Wentz was under siege so often during the first half of Sunday's 27-20 loss to Washington that his feet sometimes shifted unnecessarily in the second half, leading to a few uncharacteristic high and off-the-mark throws.

For Cox, the metaphor used by his position coach also involved a deer, but not one paralyzed by light. Neither feet nor fear are his problem. His challenge has come from the toll an endless stream of double teams and blocking schemes takes when no one on his team takes advantage of such attention.

After a start to his season that seemed to justify every penny of that $103 million contract he signed in June, Cox's major contributions to the final ledger of the last two losses have been dubious ones. Two hits on quarterbacks over the last two games both revived opponents' drives that ended in touchdowns, contributing to close defeats.

"I've got to be smarter," he said after practice at Novacare on Thursday. "I don't intentionally do those type of things. It's stuff that I can control and that I can't control. It's hard stopping 300 pounds. Especially when you're going full speed. Even when you try to shy away from having contact, sometimes it just happens."

That would describe the face mask of Matthew Stafford in Detroit two weeks ago. Cox had one hand on the shirt of the Lions quarterback, and when the other swung around to wrap, it grabbed hold of Stafford's grill instead. Last Sunday, though, Cox's hand and helmet made contact with Kirk Cousins' helmet after he released the ball, resulting not only in a penalty, but an automatic league fine.

Like Wentz, Cox was playing from behind both times. Like Wentz, a level of frustration was involved. Fighting through the added attention, playing more snaps than is optimal, because of the long drives that have resulted by the many defensive breakdowns over the last two Sundays, Cox's arrival at the point of contact seemed an offshoot of desperation as much as it was a lack of discipline.

"Buck fever?" defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said Thursday when asked about that. "I don't buy it."

Because, well, as the player's coach, he can't allow himself to. That he even introduced the phrase, though, suggests he has indeed mulled it. As Schwartz also said, "I'm in charge of execution . . . It's my job to find a way to put the fire out."

And finally, from Schwartz: "My changeups didn't work, either."

The Eagles recorded 14 sacks over the first four games. They did not record one last Sunday.

"That's not us," Schwartz said toward the end of his appraisal. "We've got to have pressure. Our front four has to carry us. We've got good players up there and they've got to do it. When they are not having a good day rushing, our blitz package has to be able to come through. We weren't successful in that."

After three sacks in the first three wins, Cox has one over his last two games. He's drawing attention, yes, said Schwartz, but not so much to render him invisible. That he has been - except for those two plays of notoriety - is something he is clearly aware of.

And something that clearly bothers him.

"These last two weeks, we've done a poor job of tackling, including myself," he said. "But it can be fixed.

"We just need to calm down and play ball."

It's that delicate balance again, calm amid craze. No more fever. No bright light freeze. It's a game of emotion, football is, but confidence is its catalyst, frustration and uncertainty its toxins. Over the last two weeks, Wentz and Cox, arguably the team's best two players, have personified this, their decisions and indecisions playing a part in the team's demise.

"In the last two weeks as a group, including myself - I don't think we came out and just punched people in the mouth up front," said Cox. "We have to be more physical. We have to come out and set the tone. That's going to be the challenge week in and week out. If we're going to be good on defense, we've got to play up front a whole lot better."