The 2015 NFL offseason has begun for the Philadelphia Eagles, which means Chip Kelly and his staff will spend the next couple of weeks evaluating the 2014 roster. While the team was able to achieve 10-6 record, they fell short of making the playoff, and there are still many ways the Eagles roster could be improved upon. By the time NFL free agency starts on March 10, the Eagles will have a good idea of which players they'll want to bring back for the 2014 season. Today we'll continue this offseason review series by looking at the special teams coverage unit. Click here for more reviews.
This post will look a little different than the typical position review post considering the special teams coverage unit isn't really a position as much as it is a unit. Nevertheless, it's worth talking about considering how the Eagles improved on special teams from 2013 to 2014. As a whole, the Eagles boasted the best special teams unit in the league. Here's how the Eagles special teams units ranked in coverage.
|Punt Return Avg||8.2||8.9||-0.7||13|
|Kickoff Return Avg||22.8||23.8||-1||12|
By strict definition, the coverage units were above average. What these numbers don't show is that the Eagles blocked four punts in 2014. Half the league (16 teams) didn't even block one, so that's pretty special. The Eagles scored three touchdowns off of those blocks.
As for individual success, here's a look at the Eagles special team tackle numbers. The numbers vary depending on the source, so here's a comparison of three different sources: the official Eagles stats, the official NFL stats, and Pro Football Focus stats. (Click the header to sort by column.)
|Nolan Carroll II||11||7||10|
Some of the sites go into more detail than just tackles. The official NFL stats include assisted tackles, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries, and blocked kicks/punts.
|Nolan Carroll II||7||1||1|
PFF includes assisted tackles, missed tackles, and penalties.
|Nolan Carroll II||10||1||3||2|
So what's to make of this data that surely only a very few of you will find remotely interesting? A few things:
• Chris Maragos led the team in special teams tackles regardless of the source. He turned out to be a pretty great free agent signing.
• Speaking of good free agent signings, Bryan Braman and Nolan Carroll II also played well. And how about Malcolm Jenkins contributing? The Eagles' 2014 free agent class had a lot to do with why special teams improved so much.
• James Casey is overpaid due to his very minimal offensive role but he's such a strong special teams contributor. He's going to be due $4 million and the Eagles can cut him to save all of that. But the Eagles won't be excited about losing him. Perhaps they can get him to take a pay cut? Or sign an extension to lower his 2015 number while offering more guaranteed money?
• Undrafted rookie Trey Burton tight end might be able to replace Casey. Burton certainly earned his PFWA All-Rookie Team honors.
• Brandon Graham wasn't just a valuable pass rusher off the bench. He also contributed on specials, and the Eagles might be losing him in free agency.
• Brandon Bair blocked two kicks, but only one led to a miss. His first block came in Week 1 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. His second block came on a Mason Crosby PAT kick. He also got his hands on a Phil Dawson kick in Week 4 but the ball still went in.
• Chris Prosinski (who?) was heck of an in-season signing. He replaced Earl Wolff, who had been completely ineffective on specials. He finished third in special teams tackles despite only appearing in seven games. That's pretty impressive.
• Casey Matthews' special teams numbers are down due to him playing an increased role in the defense.
• Cody Parkey with two tackles. Beast.
• Lastly: Eagles special teams coordinator Dave Fipp sure earned his paycheck. Good to see that he earned some recognition in the Assistant Coach of the Year voting.