It’s hard to imagine Jake Elliott suffering a crisis of confidence.
The guy who as a 22-year-old rookie made two incredibly high-pressure field goals – 42 and 46 yards – in the fourth quarter of a back-and-forth Super Bowl. One of only six kickers to make at least 84 percent of his field goals in each of his first three seasons. An 89 percent kicker inside 50 yards for his career.
But it can happen to anybody, and it happens a lot to kickers. On Friday, for the first time, Elliott conceded that confidence was an issue for him during his disastrous 2020 season.
“Confidence is a huge part of being a kicker, obviously, and when things aren’t going that well sometimes you lose that a little bit and it was a battle all last year to try to climb back up and find that all year,” he said.
“It was a process day in and day out, and I think I had a really good offseason to try to kind of look back at some of that stuff and how can I eliminate a few things here. Fewer swing thoughts, kind of like a golfer.”
Last year was a massive struggle for Elliott, just like it was for just about every good player on the 2020 Eagles.
Overall, he was 14-for-19 for 73.7 percent, lowest by an Eagles kicker since David Akers made 72.78 percent of his kicks in 2005 and 26th in the NFL out of 30 kickers who attempted at least 16 field goals.
More alarming were his two misses from inside 30 yards. Every other kicker in the league had a total of six misses on 215 attempts inside 30 yards. Elliott was 1-for-3. His 22-yard miss against the Saints was the shortest miss by an Eagles kicker since Matt Bahr missed a 21-yarder against the Bills in 1993 and the shortest miss by any NFL kicker in four years.
He was also 2-for-5 for 40 percent from 50 yards and out. The rest of the league was 64 percent from 50 and out.
Kickers can’t afford to lose their confidence. We’ve seen it before and we’ll see it again. You can’t kick in this league if you don’t believe deep down you’re going to make every kick.
But because of his contract – five years, $19.3 million – the Eagles had no choice but to try to make things work with Elliott.
So he set out this offseason to fix what was broken and regain the edge he had his first three seasons.
“You’ve got to know what works,” he said. “I got here for a reason. You kind of go back to the basics. What are you really good at? What are some things that kind of changed throughout the year? And you look at that, you correct it and move forward.”
Elliott spent the offseason studying his kicks from last year, learning from the makes and learning even more from the misses.
He worked with kicking guru Jamie Kohl as well as his long-time personal coach Chris Nendick. And at training camp he’s been working with special teams quality control coach Tyler Brown, a Camden Catholic graduate whose father Randy was an Eagles’ kicking coach under Andy Reid before joining John Harbaugh with the Ravens.
“I think it was just going back looking at what maybe went wrong in certain areas and what went right in others,” he said.
Elliott feels like he’s in a good place as training camp kicks into gear. He said he shortened his steps “just a little bit” and is getting good work with long-time long snapper Rick Lovato and new holder Arryn Siposs, the Eagles’ new punter.
But there’s a big difference between making kicks at the NovaCare Complex with half a dozen people watching on steamy July mornings and making them on Sunday afternoons in the fall with games on the line.
Elliott knows he’s physically capable of making any kick. His 61-yarder against the Giants in 2017 is the 4th-longest game winner in NFL history.
Whether he regains his form in 2021 is just a matter of whether he regains his confidence. He believes he has. We won’t really know until the kicks start to count.
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