Better on Special Teams

Posted: August 11th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 46 Comments »

The Eagles were disappointing on Special Teams in 2013. They made a concerted effort to be good on STs, but the plans just didn’t work. Chip Kelly once again focused on improving the unit this offseason. Based on Friday night, the results look pretty good.

* The highlight play was Josh Huff’s 102-yard KOR for a TD. Huff showed good speed on the play. He had a big hole to attack, but also had the speed to get through it and down the field in a hurry. He ran through one arm tackle. You want your KOR going fast enough and hard enough that he’s not going to be affected by an arm tackle.

* There was a blocked FG. The Gamebook says Joe Kruger, but the video showed Damion Square and Brandon Bair getting penetration in that area and then getting a hand up. Regardless of who did it, this was the kind of impact play you want to see.

* The Eagles came up with a fumble recovery after the Bears muffed a punt. Travis Long made the recovery. Chris Maragos also had a hand in the play.

* Alex Henery didn’t get a chance to kick a FG. He was 4 for 4 on the next extra points. More importantly, he had a pair of touchbacks. One of the focal points for him this offseason was getting better length on his kickoffs. Kicking in the warm weather is a help, but he did show progress. Now he needs to do that again  this week.

* It seemed like new players Chris Maragos and Bryan Braman helped the STs, which is what they were brought in here to do. Maragos had a hand in the fumble recovery. He blew up a KOR by knocking the crap out of a blocker. Braman was on the field for the KOR TD. Those guys need to make plays, but also help the guys around them to play better.

STs got off to a good start, but they can’t rest after one good game. The group needs to show they can be counted on all year long. Consistency is the key.

* * * * *

Is everyone now more comfortable with Mark Sanchez?

It is easy to see the butt-fumble and think of Sanchez as this awful player. That’s just not the case. He is a talented QB. Sanchez never looked like a franchise QB when he was with the Jets, but he also got poor coaching and had few weapons to work with. In Philly, Sanchez is getting good coaching and he is part of a very talented offense. It also helps that he is completely healthy.

No one is rushing to put Sanchez in Canton (except maybe Brian Baldinger), but the guy is a talented player who can help the Eagles if called upon. I hope Nick Foles stays healthy, but as Eagles fans we know that the starting QB rarely is on the field for all 16 games. In the last decade, the Eagles only had the starter for every game once – Donovan McNabb in 2008.

You better have a backup QB that can help your team.

* * * * *

I am behind on getting a full game review posted. I had a couple of things come up this weekend that kept me away from the computer. I’ll be working hard tonight to get that done.

* * * * *

Sunday and Monday are limited practice days for the Eagles. They’ll be going against the Pats on Tuesday and Wednesday. Those will be tough, physical practices. Thursday will be situational stuff. Then Friday is the next game.

_


  • Media Mike

    Henery better keep those kickoffs heading for touchbacks. His role in our choke loss in a home playoff game will not be forgotten easily.

    • Ark87

      Was watching the Denver’s preseason openner in Denver. Warm weather AND high altitude (and monster leg) = kickoff going through the uprights and 30 rows into the crowd. So crazy.

      • Media Mike

        True enough there!

      • GEAGLE

        How did Alex kick in Denver last year? Anyone remember?
        Hope he never looks as bad as he did in the Vikings dome.. Wonder if he was kicking thru some pulled muscle or if he was really that bad?

        • Ark87

          first kick was 5 yards deep and returned for a TD, Second 1 went out the back of the end zone, (about 5 yars). 3rd 1 was like line drive to the left, landed short of the end zone and tumbled fast end over end, Holliday wasn’t going to touch that one, let it roll out the back of the end zone (maybe a squib kick of sorts?).
          4th kick to open the 2nd half went 5 yards or so out of the endzone to open the 2nd half. to give you an idea of how the rest of the game went, the was only 1 more kick off after that, after Nick Fole’s TD pass to Maehl, thta one was very much like the 3rd kick, line drive to the left landing short of the end zone with great velocity, no one got near it.

          • GEAGLE

            Geez. I regret asking the question lol…
            ..
            To he honest I haven’t seen the entire Denver game. Only game I missed live in as long as I can remember, and I didn’t have it in me to go back and watch an ass kicking.

          • Ark87

            yeah we competed in the first half, 2nd half the wheels came off. We didn’t score any points until garbage time, just punts, one of which was blocked. Bad bad day. That seemed to be the game that broke the special teams for good. Earlier in the season Fipp was a damn conquering hero, saving us from the terrible Bobby April special teams. Chip valued it, used the bottom half of the roster for special teams as much as depth. We’re saved! Yeah not so much. This year should be better.

          • GEAGLE

            Yeah, if we are being honest, the emphasis we put on ST last year, did not provide adequate results. We put top much emphasis on it to under perform and have it cost us games late in the year when the defense stepped up and caught up with the offense… We clearly didn’t get our money’s worth on ST last year, but it’s nice to see them adress it this offseason.. I don’t know if we have 11 ST daemons yet, but we have ATleast 8 or 9 of them, where as last year we had about 5 suitable ST players…we can’t be addressing weaknesses in the offseason and not get our money’s worth on the field. Put too much emphasis on ST these past two years, to be losing games because of ST… Need to see major improvements this year, and Jason Phillips IMO is the X factor. If he makes it, it’s another high caliber ST player, who is gettng a roster spot more for his ST play than defense, so we should demand serious improvement.. lol then again Phillips may even be a better LB than Casey Mathews… He is def a higher reguarded ST player league wide..

            Funny how Bobby April was supposed to be the Special Team whisperer…fraud…. I see too many horses on ST to not be one of the better units…Alex Henrey will decide if we are good or great, I assume

          • Ark87

            Yeah we did invest alot, this year we doubled down. We got a legit special team’s captain in Maragos, and he is really REALLY into it, part of the is going back to the culture in Seattle. When Special teams made a play, even just making a field goal, Russel Wilson and Pete Carrol would get fired up and run out to the field to congratulate them, that’s how much it mattered to them in Seattle. Chris can bring some more of that attitude here.

            If it doesn’t work out again, I start looking at Fipp. The GM can only help you so much, someone has to put the players in a place to succeed.

            We had a toxic combo last year, and that was:
            1) Couldn’t trust Henery as a PK
            2) Couldn’t trust Henery to get you touch backs
            3) Couldn’t trust the Kickoff coverage team

            If we can change 1 and 3, special teams will be fine.

            The alternative is fix 1 and 2, and you do that by just finding a better kicker.

          • GEAGLE

            Good stuff. Total agreement…1 and 3 would be ideal.. Like to have a nasty playmaking kickoff team that return men think twice about bringing the ball out of the ENDZONE but that won’t happen overnight. Hopefully Fipp is succesful, because not having to change coaches is the quickest path to elite status….but Fipp really has to produce this year… But If our ST shows a lot of improvement but henrey costs us games as a FG kicker, that can’t be blamed on Fipp..
            ..
            The blame will go to whoever decided that Cary Spears should be Alex only form of competition this offseason..

          • Ark87

            That’s true, If Henery is terrible, that will leave a stink on the ST overall. Still, looking to at least see *something* in the return game (It doesn’t bother me THAT bad since our offense is so good, but it would still help), and if Henery remains noodle leg on kick offs, I want to see a nasty cover team. I put that on Fipp, I think we gave him the tools he needs to do that much. I’d like to see him succeed as well. I’m a believer that stability is a key to success, not just a byproduct.

          • GEAGLE

            Absolutely!! Return game has Been too bad for too long… THAT has to change!

          • Media Mike

            April was a multiple time winner of special teams coach of the year and consistently had his units in very high rankings. What killed him here was the slow decay of the roster depth / quality coupled with a team that had (sadly and incomprehensibly) tuned out the message from the coaching staff.

            I really think April took too much direct grief.

          • A_T_G

            Didn’t we have him kicking squib kicks all game against the Vikings because we were scared of Patterson? I’m not trying to defend his kickoffs last year, but I don’t know if that game should be put on his shoulders.

          • Media Mike

            Yeah, and in a stadium that should have resulted in touchbacks every time.

          • Matt

            Does every kicker that goes in there have touchbacks every time? No, so you don’t know what you are talking about.

          • GEAGLE

            For me, That is the game that should be most put on his friggin shoulders… We had to squib kick all game giving them the ball at the 30 cuz we couldn’t count on Alex kicking touchbacks in a dome

    • Matt

      He had a minor role. If the defense did their job, Henery wouldn’t be remembered. He is not to blame for that loss.

  • Vik

    Tommy – You can take your time with the DGR. Don’t lose sleep over a sloppy preseason game. We need you well rested to do the game reviews for our Super Bowl winning season!

  • CrackSammich

    Huff looked great on the TD return, but there were a lot of rookie mistakes on the other returns. Encouraging, but his grade is still an incomplete. He’ll probably get a lot of time back there now, though.

    • Tumtum

      The stiff arm on the kicker reminded me of Popeye pre-spinnach vs Bluto. Popeye would throw windmills in the air with both hands, and Bluto would just hold his face and yawn.

      Made me chuckle.

      • Bert’s Bells

        That’s the answer – spinach smoothies.

    • D3FB

      Coaches often greenlight the returners to bring the ball out no matter what in preseason. That way they get to see the entire execution of the blocking, maybe you spring a long one, and if you get crap field position, who cares.

    • GEAGLE

      Think Nolan is ahead on the KR depth chart

  • Pennguino

    I am still concerned with the KOR. The return for a TD was great but the rest seemed bad. He was hitting traffic at the 10. Didnt seem like he was making it to the 20.

    • Tumtum

      Still haven’t watched the 2nd half, but the first KoR he had I think the early traffic was on Huff. He took it out from about 8 deep. That can set you up for a big play, or just what he got.

    • Anders

      a few of the ones he took out was ones you only take out in PS, but is a kneel down in regular season

    • eagleyankfan

      I thought too that Chip said Huff missed a hole.

  • Ark87

    I feel betrayed by the Patriots practicing with the Redskins, I thought we had something special Bill!

    • GEAGLE

      Cowboys practice with the raiders! Lol

      I actually like that they practiced with that joke of a skins team first, this way we will get to hear all the Boston media talk about how we did much better against the pats than the skins who’s defense was allegedly dissected by surgeon Tom

      • Mitchell

        I wouldn’t trust that bastard either.

        • GEAGLE

          I loved hearing that we aren’t using our hand signals. Hope Cary doesn’t behave. He brought the nasty back to our defensive locker room….since we didn’t have safeties who could set the tone for the secondary.
          … Love him, he could play on a philly defense any day. the anti NNamdi!!! Also like that he seems to be hard on Wolff and really pushes him because he thinks Wolff can be a stud..
          ..
          Secondary should compete with ST for most improved area.. Nolan, Malcolm, Jalen… Rather see us add 3 quality DBs we can use in games, instead of adding 1 40million dollar corner, and having a piegeon that every team picks on as your number 2 CB….cough cough Arizona

          • jshort

            You mean …..no more pictures? Didn’t notice any being used at the Bears game. Thought something was missing.

          • GEAGLE

            Wasn’t paying attention to the signals against the bears, but I know When Chip was questioned about Cary comments about not wanting to practice with the patriots because they are cheaters, Chip offered that we wouldn’t be using our hand signals this week, and that we would be operating out of the huddle… Would be interesting to be tapping chips phone when he was working out the parameters and rules of our joint practice with the Patriots… Lol Did Chip present not using our normal form of communication delicately?

            Wonder if Chip taught Bellicek our communication methods a few years back when he picked chips brain before implementing the hurry up with Gronk and the serial killer… Chips communication method is one of the more brilliant parts of it all, because it’s allegedly pretty easy for the players. Wonder how willing Chip has been to teach his communication system to other coaches. It’s one thing to talk concepts and plays, other coaches could look at tape and get a good idea so no point in Chip protecting intel related to the plays…but his communication is said to be unique and all the veterans were impressed by it, wonder how willing Chip was to share that with coaches who picked his brain when he was I’m college?.
            ..
            Obviously Billy Lazor and the Dolphons have that intel, wonder if Bellecik used chips communication method when he implemented the tempo, or if Chip is stingy with his system info?

          • jshort

            Ok you were talking about practice with NE. Still I don’t remember seeing any camera shots of anyone holding up pictures. Or I might have missed that. Anyone else notice?

          • GEAGLE

            I didn’t notice the signs in the preseason game, but Kelce was still looking to the sidelines for the calls…
            Watched the first half again last night and I didn’t see any signs for whatever that’s worth

          • A_T_G

            Really, though, there were enough players from last year’s team available cheaply in free agency that any organization that wanted to hear how the signals work could have hired one of them.

          • GEAGLE

            What offensive players have we lost since last year?

          • A_T_G

            Brown, Jackson, Avant, all the guys we cut when we went down from 90 to 53 last year, and I’d imagine some guys from the PS.

            And you don’t think the defense understands how the signs work?

  • Ferris Wren

    Not more comfortable with Sanchez and not less comfortable with Foles.

  • GEAGLE

    Take,Alex henrey out of the equation, I won’t at all be surprised to see coach Fipp field a top 10 ST unit,., we have some serious special team players
    ..
    Colt Anderson was solid, but over rated him because he was the best of a crappy bunch. I don’t think Colt would be one of the top 3 ST players on this years unit… If Colt was that good. We would have spent the peanuts it would have taken to bring him back
    ..
    Maragos and Brman already flashed some ST game.
    Casey is really solid on ST
    BRad smith, I have heard team ages reform to as one of the best ST players in the league
    Jason Phillips is a better ST player than LB
    Nolan Carrol and Jalen Watkins are like two extra Boykin type gunner
    I’m sure Reynolds can be every bit the ST player as Kurt Coleman
    Josh,Huff can be more than just a solid return man, kids physical
    Is there any doubt that Marcus smith will probably be amST upgrade over BG?
    Donnie jones may be the best punter I have ever seen. He is practically one of our weapons on defense

    Every coach preaches the importance of ST.. I don’t know that I ever seen a franchise dedicate free agency to improve ST’s… We have plenty of ST Horses, if we aren’t one of the better units, Fipp or henrey a head as to roll

    • GENETiC-FREAK

      Colt was good ST.. Difference i see with the Maragos n Braman is they can actually play on D too.. Colt looked awkward when playing on D

      • GEAGLE

        I don’t disagree that they are better defenders, but I really don’t think Colt would be one of the best 3 ST players on our roster. Because if he was, I would expect him to ATleast be in training camp with us. We put so much emphasis on ST, I don’t see Chip losing Colt if he was better than most of what we have…I think we would have ATleast paid him enough to see him competing with us in camp. …. Is Keelan Johnson that much better of a safety than Colt is?
        ..
        With all the ST emphasis on the depth of our roster, would you be that surprised to see Chip keep a top ST player, as a 5th safety, who he never wants to play on defense?
        ….
        Then again, this entire post could be worthless because I haven’t paid enough attention to Special teams, I haven’t even taken the time to compare and contrast maragos ST stats with Colts.. Just a non educated guess….. I do remember Colt having some rough ST moments last year… I assume that the ST captain of the SUPERBOWL champions who’s ST definitely did it’s part grades out higher than Andy Reid’s best special team player of a 4-12 team…

        Lol now I’m actually curious to go and look into ST play from last year. Also Curipus to compare contracts of Coleman,Colt,Maragos and Braman who all signed this offseason… I don’t think Braman and maragos were brought in for defense, but I wouldn’t call it a stretch to say maragos is most likely much more talented safety of they two

  • GEAGLE

    Props to shady and his new sneakers. Good for him, well deserved

    • anon

      If Momah can play with the ones so can Allen and others that flashed last game. Would be nice to see them mix up the line in first and second quarters. Many of us were asking for a fat boy ad we got one and surprise — he looked pretty good given he’s a 7th rounder.

      • GEAGLE

        Billy talked about this. Said it’s easier for him to mix and match the depth players with the ones this week in practice against the pats