Philadelphia Eagles training camp 2015 is fast approaching. Coaches and players report as soon as Saturday, August 1. The Eagles training camp schedule, including information on practices open to the public, can be found by clicking here.
As we count down the days together, Bleeding Green Nation will be previewing every position on the Eagles roster. Today we wrap up the series by looking at the special teams unit.
Kicker: Cody Parkey
Punter: Donnie Jones
Long Snapper: Jon Dorenbos
Punt Returner: Darren Sproles
Kick Returner: Josh Huff
The Eagles were very fortunate to pick up Cody Parkey in a trade with the Indianapolis Colts last summer. He was a significant upgrade over what the much-maligned Alex Henery would have provided them. Parkey went on to break the Eagles' single-season record for points scored at the age of just 22 years old. Parkey struggled a little bit down the stretch, possibly due to an injury that had been hampering him. There was a lot of talk about how Parkey didn't have the benefit of resting last offseason due to the draft process. This year, Parkey has been able to rest. Maybe that will help him be even greater than he already was.
Donnie Jones is still a good precision punter despite lacking pure power. The Eagles brought in undrafted rookie free agent Kip Smith to "challenge" Jones but it's not even a real competition. Smith was really brought in just to eat up punt reps and give the 35-year-old Jones some rest this summer.
Darren Sproles was the best punt returner in the NFL last season. One would think he'll resume that role in 2015, but he might share some time there with rookie first round pick Nelson Agholor.
Josh Huff returned a kickoff for a touchdown in the preseason before doing so again in the regular season. While he was helped with great blocking on both accounts, he's still a weapon with the ball in his hands. The Eagles are hjust hoping he's not a weapon against themselves.
The Eagles likely won't score all the return touchdowns they managed to score on special teams last season, but there's still reason to believe Dave Fipp's unit will be pretty good. A lot of the same personnel is returning, including key contributors such as Chris Maragos, Chris Prosinski, Bryan Braman, Trey Burton, and Brandon Boykin. On top of this, the Eagles added special teams ace Seyi Ajirotutu in free agency.
One potential concern has to do with returning players who are now expected to fill bigger roles on defense. Brandon Graham has been a strong special teams contributor in recent seasons, but now he will be starting at outside linebacker. Nolan Carroll, meanwhile, could be starting at cornerback after finishing third in special teams tackles last season. Will the absence of Graham and Carroll on special teams hurt the unit? Losing James Casey was also a significant special teams loss as well.
Last year, I fully expected the Eagles to have a top 10 special teams unit. They exceeded my expectations by being the best overall in the NFL. It's hard to say the Eagles will be No. 1 overall again, but a top five performance is within the realm of possibility.