When Philadelphia Eagles kicker Caleb Sturgis went down with a quadriceps injury in his plant leg after a week one victory against the Washington Redskins, the Eagles were put in a position in which they were working out kickers who had been unemployed. Sturgis, who had hit over 84 percent of his field goals as an Eagle, would be difficult to replace. Philadelphia decided to give that opportunity to a rookie and steal the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad kicker, Jake Elliott.
At the halfway point, a case could be made that the signing was one of the best moves of the Eagles’ season.
In the 2017 preseason, Elliott lost a kicking competition with six-year veteran Randy Bullock. As a fifth-round pick, the Bengals decided to sign Elliott to their practice squad after he cleared waivers. He lasted there one week until the Eagles made the call.
Elliott didn’t get off to a shining start with the Eagles, missing two of his first four attempts, one of which was a chip-shot 30-yarder.
After missing a 52-yard attempt in the third quarter of the Eagles’ third (Elliott’s second) game of the season, left tackle Jason Peters told Elliott on the sideline “No more misses.” The message stuck.
Elliott hit two field goals in the final 56 seconds of the game including a franchise-record, 61-yard game winner as time expired that instantly made Elliott the folk hero that he has become. Since Peters’ message, Elliott has connected on 14-of-15 attempts including 12 straight.
After Elliott’s 61-yard field goal, he endeared himself to fans more as he hit Chickie’s and Pete’s right down the street from the stadium immediately following the victory. One doesn’t really have to questions whether or not Elliott had to pay for his meal that day.
The legendary kick elicited viral videos of Merrill Reese making the call, Sixer Joel Embiid jumping up and down from a suite at the stadium and a multiple-thousand dollar donation after quarterback Carson Wentz was heard on the sideline saying that he would give Elliott his game check should Elliott make the miracle kick.
From that moment, the future looked bright for the 22-year-old and bleak for the kicker he replaced.
Sturgis, who was three-for-three with a missed extra point before being sidelined for the season, is now an afterthought in the minds of Eagles fans. Elliott stole their heart the moment he hit that 61-yarder. Elliott has instilled a confidence in the Eagles coaches and fans that when he enters the game, it is an automatic three points.
Elliott is now 16-of-19 on the season, including five-for-six from 50 yards or more. Only Matt Prater and Steven Hauschka have made five field goals of 50 yards or more. Elliott stands alone with the longest made field goal in the NFL in 2017 with his 61-yarder.
At season’s end, the Eagles will have Elliott under contract for 2018 while Sturgis is set to become a free agent. The decision, at this point, looks like an easy one for the Eagles and they may not even bat an eye at Sturgis hitting free agency.
One of the most valuable characteristics a kicker can give you is the feeling of confidence that when he enters the game, he is getting you points. Jake Elliott does just that. The Eagles found a gem in Elliott and he is a big reason for the Eagles 7-1 record.
Follow Brenden on Twitter @brendenp2011.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports