The 2016 NFL offseason has begun for the Philadelphia Eagles, which means Howie Roseman and new head coach Doug Pederson will spend the next couple of weeks evaluating the 2015 roster. The team went 7-9 last season and improvement is clearly needed. By the time NFL free agency starts on March 9, the Eagles will have a good idea of which players they'll want to bring back for the 2016 season. Today we'll continue this offseason review series by looking at the special teams coverage unit.
The Philadelphia Eagles clearly had the best special teams unit in the NFL in 2014. To no surprise, their special teams scoring regressed last season. They were still pretty good, though. The Birds finished top five in Rick Gossellin's annual rankings. Football Outsiders had them in the top 10 in terms of DVOA. Here's how the Eagles special teams units ranked in coverage:
|Punt Return Avg||5.1||8.5||-3.4||3|
|Kickoff Return Avg||20.7||23.6||-2.9||7|
The Eagles allowed 8.2 in punt return average and 22.8 in kickoff return average last year, so their coverage units actually improved. It's no surprise why Philadelphia wanted to retain special teams coordinator Dave Fipp on the team's new staff.
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: stats from the Eagles' official team website, the official NFL stats, and Pro Football Focus stats. (Click the header to sort by column.)
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.
PFF includes assisted tackles, missed tackles, and penalties.
A few takeaways from all of this data that you probably don't care about:
• Trey Burton is a special teams stud. He finished with the most special teams tackles of any Eagles player, no matter the source of the data. PFF said he missed a few tackles, which isn't ideal, but he was never penalized the whole season. Burton isn't just a special teams player. He's showed some offensive potential in limited playing time. He's not a feature player or anything (yet) but the team should reward his special teams efforts by giving him a few snaps here and there on offense.
• Chris Maragos is obviously still a good ST guy as well. He finished second in tackles and he was the one who blocked a punt in Philadelphia's upset win over the Patriots.
• Najee Goode had a lot of tackles despite not signing with the team until late September. The Eagles recently rewarded Goode with a one-year contract extension.
• Malcolm Jenkins is more than just a Pro Bowl safety. He's also a pretty significant contributor on special teams as well. It's amazing how his body has held up despite playing the most snaps of any player on defense and then playing on the ST unit as well. Give this man the credit he deserves.
• I wonder why the Eagles decided to release Brad Jones. He seemed to be contributing well enough. Oh well.
• Seyi Ajirotutu is near the top of the list in tackles. He'll be a free agent. We'll see if the Eagles want him back or not.
• Jerome Couplin put up some good numbers despite suffering a season-ending injury in Week 9. That might bode well for his chances of sticking around for the future.