For the third week in a row, Eagles fans were left with their heads in their hands after Jake Elliott missed a field goal. Naturally, there has been plenty of speculation over whether or not it’s time to address the kicker position, or at least discuss what’s going on. But is the situation really as bleak as it seems?
The bigger picture
Back in November of last year, the Eagles locked up Elliott by signing him to a five-year deal worth $21.8M, guaranteeing him $10.45M. At the end of 2019, he ranked 13th in kicking percentage. Interestingly, he’s currently the 14th highest-paid kicker in the NFL, perhaps hinting at some actual value there.
The struggles of Jake Elliott need context
In 2020, Elliott has missed four field-goal attempts, with three coming in the last 3 weeks. While two were over 50-yards (not exactly easy) and one of those was at a gusty Heinz Field, Elliott joins Stephen Gostkowski as the only kicker to miss four or more attempts this season. Elliott ranks 29th in FG%, Gostkowski 31st
On paper, taking away the two 50+ yard attempts would negate much of this debate, but then Elliott missed a 29-yard attempt against the Giants. A kick that was oh so nearly vital in the matchup. In terms of importance, had Elliott nailed his kick against the Ravens last week, the Eagles would’ve won.
A lot has changed since Elliott hit that iconic 61-yarder to beat the Giants in 2017. In fact, nobody in Eagles history has kicked a longer field goal. His efforts in the Super Bowl that year where he went 4/4 were heralded. But that shouldn’t automatically protect him from criticism four seasons later.
Coaches double down on Jake Elliott
Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson was naturally asked about his confidence in Elliott following the win over New York. Pederson doubled down on the former UDFA.
“No, I’ve got so much confidence in Jake.” He said. “He’s made so many big kicks for us. I have a lot of confidence in him and really the operation from snap, hold to kick.
It doesn’t affect my decision one way or the other to put him out there or not put him out there. We just got to keep working through it. He’s a professional. He knows that he needs to make those. We need to be better there. He needs to make those kicks.
But it doesn’t challenge my confidence one way or the other. I’m going to continue to put him out there. He’s going to continue to make those kicks for us.”
Special Teams coach Dave Fipp was asked something similar before the fateful matchup, delivering a similar sentiment.
“The other thing that I look at is his kicks under 50-yards on his career. I think he’s right now hitting at like just under 90 percent or right at about 90 percent, which is a really high number there. I feel really good about where he’s at. He’s on track to have a really good year. Those high, long-distance field goal kicks at 50 plus and some of those even deeper than that, skew the numbers right now for him, but I got no concerns at all for Jake. “
But maybe…just maybe
The Eagles did workout a former CFL standout at the kicker position in mid-October. This could have just been precautionary as an insurance policy in case of injury, but the name is notable. Lirim Hajrullahu.
Formerly of the Rams, he was released at the end of Training Camp despite being their best kicker, going 10/13 in summer scrimmages. The Rams opted to start their draft pick Sam Sloman instead.
The Eagles are no strangers to poaching CFL talent. Alex Singleton was an elite defender for the Calgary Stampeders during their Grey Cup campaign, while Marken Michel joins names like Aaron Grymes as those who bounced on and off the roster.
Hajrullahu played in all 18 regulae season games for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats last year, converting 85.5% of his 55 field goal attempts, hitting 26.28 extra point attempts. He also acted as the team’s punter, averaging 43.1 yards per punt.
No contract was signed, but this could at least be a sign that the Eagles are aware of a potentially declining Jake Elliott.
There’s no reason to be concerned, until there is a reason to be concerned. Elliott’s misses have to be taken with context in mind, although it’s not wild to assume that the reason Pederson has been so aggressive on fourth down at least has some correlation to some special teams struggles.
The Eagles won’t be panicking just yet, but they will definitely be placing Elliott under the microscope from here on out.
Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire