Philadelphia Eagles

Could Eagles special teams be any worse?


They’ve had a field goal blocked, muffed two punts, committed unnecessary roughness on a field goal attempt and given up a first down on a fake punt.

They’re 25th in punt return average, 31st in kick return average and 21st covering kick returns.

Their punter ranks 26th in net average, 23rd in gross average and is tied for second in touchbacks.

Even Pro Bowl kicker Jake Elliott has only attempted five field goals, making four and getting the one blocked. His 28-yarder against the Jaguars after getting hurt was huge, though.

But if not for a 22-year-old emergency kicker in his NFL debut there really wouldn’t be anything to get excited about this year on Eagles special teams.

Actually, they are very good covering punts – 5th-best in the league – so there’s that.

But overall, special teams have been miserable through five games for the Eagles, who are 5-0 despite several misadventures in the kicking game.

The Eagles are No. 5 in offense, No. 7 in defense and … much worse on special teams.

On Tuesday, second-year special teams coach Michael Clay was asked for his assessment of his special teams group.

His perspective might be a little different than everyone else’s.

“Overall, it's been solid,” he said. “It's been OK. There are some things we could get better at, no doubt. There are a lot of things we could get better at. If you ask anybody in this building, no one is ever satisfied where you're at through five weeks, but I think our coverages have been doing a really good job in terms of punt, kickoff coverage.

“Punt return, we squeezed some 15, some 12 yards, we like to be a little bit more (productive) in terms of that. Kickoff return, we haven't had a lot of opportunities the last couple weeks with Washington then with Arizona, with all the touchbacks and everything.

“We've still got to get better in all phases to help this team reach the goal that we want to reach.”

Expectations were high for rookie Britain Covey, who had a record-setting career at Utah but has gotten off to a disappointing start as the Eagles’ primary returner.

Covey is averaging just 6.1 yards per return, 23rd of 26 qualifying returners. His long gain was a 15-yarder, and he’s muffed two punts, recovering both.

But it’s not all Covey. He really hasn’t had any lanes to run through.

“There's a lot of variables with punt returns to get our return game going,” Clay said. “So we're just going to keep working, keep grinding at it. It's just no different than a major-league baseball hitter, man. You're going to swing and swing, but one time you're going to hit that sweet spot and he's going to go long.

“We're going to keep grinding it and hopefully get one loose on a couple of them.”

What about Arizona's fake punt Sunday from their own 28-yard-line?

Here's what Clay had to say: "We had eight in the box. Hats off to them. They just out-executed (us). They had to work hard for those six yards."


There have been some positives.

Zech McPhearson has been outstanding as a gunner. Rookie Kyron Johnson has played well across the board. Nakobe Dean hasn’t been able to get on the field on defense but has shown up at times on special teams. Shaun Bradley continues to lead the whole group.

But for the most part?

It hasn't been good.

The Eagles finished last year ranked 21st in Rick Gosselin’s annual special teams rankings. Five games into this year, it feels like special teams would have to show a lot of improvement to get to 21st.

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