FREE AGENCY EDITION: Special Teams focus

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Nov 3, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles special teams coordinator Dave Fipp (left) greets tight end James Casey (85) during the game against the Oakland Raiders at Coliseum. The Eagles defeated the Raiders 49-20. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports



Free Agency.  Safeties, Edge rusher.  But this article is a special teams focus.  Eagles special teams need a huge boost in 2014.    Of 32 NFL teams in 2013, they could rank no higher than 18th.    Per an article of the November 21, 2013 of Pro Football Focus special teams edition, the special teams of the Philadelphia Eagles ranked 15th overall in tackling efficiency, but very poorly in penalties at 27.

Standouts on the squad were James Casey and departing free agent, Colt Anderson, while laggers were Zach Ertz and Brandon Boykin.  But Colt Anderson is no longer with the team.  And until something formally is announced, neither is punter Donnie Jones.  In fact, of all the off season moves so far, the most negative impacts have been to an already sub-average special teams.

So how does this play into the free agency?   Rumors of the team chasing players on a hint and a whim are running rampant right now, but the focus of this free agency is simple:   Fill the holes.  Right now the Birds have only a couple such vacancies in their roster:  punter, safety, and special teams players.

The special team interest will likely be the driving force in the free agency moves of the team throughout free agency.   With the loss of standout Colt Anderson, and with special teams already at the weakest link status, do not be surprised to find the team signing multiple players who can make an immediate impact on kick and punt coverage teams.

Special Teams coach Dave Fipps joined the Eagles he had just completed two very successful years with the Miami Dolphins,  where they had ranked second (2011) and fourth (2012) in special teams performances.    Unfortunately that success was not repeated in Philly, where the Birds have not yet risen to the upper half of the NFL.

Anything can happen in free agency, and writing an article about the priorities of the team just as free agency begins is a risky move.   Within minutes, a glaring weakness of a team can become its strength.  But at this moment, the eagles need serious attention to their special teams.

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  • Ryan

    How can you call boykin a lagger he was far and away the best gunner on the team and a lot of guys felt he was one of the best in the league. Also we have been in negotiations with Jones agent during this legal tampering period. We cannot sign him to anything more than veteran minimum until Tuesday at 4. All signs point to us having a deal signed at that time. I don’t know where you get your facts but there wrong. I usually like your stories but this one is filled with holes

  • Bret Stuter

    Thank you for your comments. The article is specific to special teams, and as cited I used the grading system of PFF. Special Teams is unlike true defense, as it requires speed, tackling, and a component of reckless abandon. In special team coverage, Boykin did not excel as he did as a slot cornerback – where he was one of the best in the NFL.
    As far as the information of Donnie Jones, if you see the statement of the article, I referred to actual team statements. The assumption was, all along, that Donnie Jones would be a high priority in free agency and as we now know, it was.
    Thanks for your comments. Free Agency is underway for Philadelphia and so far, the measured activity appears to be taking the Eagles in the right direction.