Each year, Rick Gosselin of The Dallas Morning News releases rankings of NFL special teams units from the past season. Gosselin's rankings take 22 different categories into consideration. The Eagles finished at number 19, which is below average by definition. However, when you consider the Eagles ranked 28th in 2012, it's an 9 spot increase from last year. The Eagles still have room to grow, but the first year improvement could be seen as a sign of progress.
The increase in performance could be due to the departure of Bobby April, who's special teams underperformed when Andy Reid was still coach. Reid reportedly didn't put a huge emphasis on special teams in practice. The exact opposite is true with current Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. Kelly hired former Dolphins assistant Dave Fipp to be the Eagles special teams coordinator. Fipp and the special teams unit are plenty busy in practice.
The Eagles also brought in a number of new faces on special teams. Donnie Jones replaced Mat McBriar at punter, which made a significant difference. Jones set two Eagles franchise punting records: one in Net Punting Average (40.5) and the other being punts downed inside the 20 (33). Depth players such as James Casey and Brad Smith, who was added mid-season, were important contributors on the coverage units. So was Brandon Boykin, who had a knack for downing punts deep in the opponent's territory.
Last week, it was noted how Philadelphia ranked near the bottom of the league in kick and punt returns (26th and 27th) and also were below average in field goals made (22nd). The coverage units were better than the return units. The Eagles were above average in punt coverage (11th) but below average in kickoff coverage (19th). Speaking of coverage units, the top six players with the most special team tackles included: Colt Anderson (16), James Casey (13), Casey Matthews (12), Kurt Coleman (9), Najee Goode (8), Brad Smith (8).
To compile the rankings, Gosselin uses the following stats: Kickoff return, punt return, kickoff coverage, punt coverage, average starting field position after kickoff, opponent's average starting field position after kickoff, punting, net punting, inside-the-20 punts, opponent's punting, opponent's net punting, field goals, field goal percentage, opponent's field goal percentage, extra point percentage, points scored, points allowed, blocked kicks, blocked kicks allowed, takeaways, giveaways and penalties.
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