With training camp just days away, we begin our countdown here on ITI. Starting today we’ll have an article a day, counting down from 10 to 1, with the final article appearing on the first full day of camp as veterans report on July 31st. Each article will preview a position or group of positions, increasing in importance as camp draws nearer.
We start with the kickers and punters, by nature one of the least discussed and yet most important positions on the field. A great punt can swing field position and play a key part in deciding a game, while a late field goal can carry the utmost pressure with the game on the line.
The Eagles have just three players on their roster over the age of 30 – kicker David Akers and punter Sav Rocca are two of them (defensive end Juqua Parker rounds out the trio). Akers comes into camp without competition, and deservedly so after a typically strong season. Akers hit 86.5% of his field goals last year, second to only the Chargers’ Nate Kaeding. Akers was 11-13 from 40-49 yards and has seemingly left his struggles of the 2007-2008 season well behind. Since hitting just 75% of his field goals and only 1-6 from 40-49 yards in that campaign, Akers has hit 84% of his attempts. That includes 89% from inside 50 yards.
As it stands, the only slight concern is that Akers will draw a lot of work as the only kicker in camp. With that in mind, don’t be surprised if you see punters Sav Rocca and Ken Parrish handle some kicking duties at Lehigh. Parrish has worked with kickoff specialists to improve that side of his game, which may be one of the reasons he’s in camp. If a team can use one player to take the workload off of both its kicker and punter, that saves a valuable roster spot for a position player through the early rounds of cuts.
While Parrish doesn’t pose a huge challenge, Rocca’s spot on the roster may not be a complete lock. Rocca has averaged 42.6 yards per punt over his Eagles career, which ranks third in team history. The Australian’s net average sits at 37 yards per punt across three seasons and that average has gone up each year. However, averages across the league have gone up and Rocca ranked just 15th in net average and 26th overall last season.
Parrish more than likely won’t give Rocca too much of a run for his money, but the Eagles coaches and front office are familiar with the East Stroudsburg native. Parrish had a stint in Philadelphia in 2009, but was released during training camp. Parrish averaged 40.7 yards per punt during his college days at East Stroudsburg, but hasn’t made an NFL roster to date. The 26-year-old spent the offseason working with punting coach Louie Aguiar and kickoff specialists Mike Hollis and Mike Husted in Las Vegas.
While most of the attention of fans at training camp will fall on the offensive and defensive units, it’s worth avoiding the crowds and spending a few minutes watching Akers and company kick on a side field. The range that Akers is capable of displaying in a warm weather practice setting can be impressive, and in years past it has given a good indication of what to expect from his coming season.
The Birds hope they can expect another Pro Bowl caliber campaign from Akers, with continued improvement from Sav Rocca. Be sure to visit ITI tomorrow morning, when we take a look at the Eagles’ tight ends. Brent Celek has a tight grip on the starting spot, but the Eagles have some interesting prospects vying for the backup spot.
Training Camp Coverage
Visit InsideTheIggles.com for exclusive training camp coverage, including practice recaps and scouting reports from the Lehigh Valley. ITI’s Ryan Messick will be reporting from Training Camp throughout the day on July 31st, August 1st and August 5th through 8th. Check back often for updates, and follow along on Twitter at www.twitter.com/InsidetheIggles or www.twitter.com/Ryan_Messick.