Fipp’s dominant Special Teams unit is the glue holding Eagles together

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The Eagles have surprised a lot of people in 2016. The rise of Carson Wentz partnered with the emergence of a dominant Defense have seen the team defy expectations in the first half of the season, racing to a 4-2 record against all odds. But one area of the team that’s simply not receiving credit is the special teams unit.

Dave Fipp earned a strong reputation since becoming the Eagles Special Teams Coach in 2013..but his presence hasn’t been tarnished despite the explosive Defense stealing the show. In fact, if you break down the Eagles special teams performances so far, they’ve been just as important to the team’s success as both the Offense and the Defense..

Kick returns:
The Eagles set a milestone against the Vikings, becoming the first team in NFL history to have kick return touchdowns in back-to-back games by two different players. Not only that, but Huff and Smallwood are the only two players in the league to score a touchdown from a kick return this season.

Against the Redskins, the special teams unit accounted for 13 points, while the Defense were able to put seven on the board. The Offense? Scoreless.

It’s not just the scoring that’s impressive,  it’s when the points are scored.In a brutal swing, the Eagles found themselves within reaching distance after some special teams wizardry from Wendell Smallwood threw the birds back into the fray. Against the Vikings, Josh Huff scored at a time when the Offense was simply stagnating, failing to put up points on their opening five drives.

To put it bluntly, the Eagles kick returns unit, through a series of impressive blocks and elusive runs, have given the team a surge of momentum when they need it most.

 

Punting:
Donnie Jones is one of the most consistent punters in the league, but very few people know that the veteran could be on course for a career year. Jones has already kicked the longest punt of his 13 season career, a 72-yarder against the Browns.

Out of 27 punts, 4 have gone for touchbacks, which may not sound too impressive..but nine have landed inside the 20. Now that is beyond impressive. Of his 27 punts, only 6 have been returned by opposing players.

If the Eagles Offense is forced into a quick three and out, deep inside their own territory, it’s  Donnie Jones that often pins the opposing team toward the back of their own..giving the Defense a much better chance of a successful drive.

 

Field Goals:
The birds missed a total of five field goals during the 2015 season. That may not sound like much, but when you realize the team attempted 26 and that those five attempts equate to 19% of their field goals missing the target, the weight of the situation begins to reveal itself.

Unsurprisingly, the Eagles ranked 4th in missed kicks last season. There were four games last season where the Eagles lost by three points or less. If the team had gone on to win those games, they would have had ended with a total 11 wins.

The great news is that Eagles kicker Caleb Sturgis has been on fire this season. Since missing his first kick of the year, a field goal attempt against the Browns, Sturgis has completed 14 straight.

Sturgis has accounted for 49 of the Eagles 156 points scored so far, which equates to nearly 1/3 of their total. in comparison to last year, the Eagles kicking situation has greatly improved..and after asserting his dominance in training camp, beating Cody Parkey to the starting role, Sturgis has never looked back, turned a new leaf and has been on the money whenever called upon.

 

Kicking coverage:
So what about opposing kick returns? Well, the Eagles allow a stunning 17.9 yards per kick return..the third least in the NFL. Even though they allowed Eddie Royal to return a punt for a touchdown in week 2, the Eagles still average just 12.9 yards per punt return.

In fact, when you list every team’s longest kick return given up this season, the Eagles longest return has been A TWENTY THREE YARDER…the lowest in the league. When it comes to forcing teams to drive the length of the field to score..against such an elite Defense, the Eagles special teams unit is among the best in the business.

 

It’s taken a while for the Eagles special teams unit to establish itself fully, but all the pieces finally seem to be in place for Dave Fipp. With a vicious Defense behind him and an exciting Offense ahead, the Special Teams has been the glue keeping the team together this season..and it’s only going to become stickier as time goes on.

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