Philadelphia Eagles Will Have the Top Special Teams Unit in 2013
A few things were obvious after watching last night’s game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Carolina Panthers. All three units on the team showed improvement. Michael Vick played like the starting job is won and, after the last two preseason games he does deserve it. Chip Kelly needs to name him the quarterback and move on. The defense held the Panthers in the running and passing games. They put pressure on Cam Newton and stopped many plays in the backfield. The special teams unit has shown a vast improvement and, with all the focus on Kelly’s offense, can become the sleeper force to win games for the Eagles this season.
Damaris Johnson and Brandon Boykin shined in return duties. Johnson is finally looking like the returner he was in college, showing shifty moves and breakaway speed. Boykin also made his case in the kick return game. The team covered both punts and kicks well, stopping runners with solid tackling and staying in their lanes. Last night rookie Brad Wing even showed his skill in placement punts, pinning the Panthers inside their own 20.
This unit is totally different from the debacle of Bobby April‘s years with the team. He was hired with a reputation that failed to show in the time he was given with the Eagles. In 2012, too many games were lost with the inability to play field position and stop the opposition after punts and kicks. Dave Fipp has injected new life into the group.
Brian Baldinger mentioned last night, on air, that he hadn’t seen as much team practice during the special teams phase of the game as the Eagles. When I went to training camp at Lincoln Financial Field, you could see it in person. Fipp ran out every drill with his group. He’s a high energy guy whose methods have kicked in, and the improvement is obvious. This year we will see games won on the strength of the special teams, and it will only improve Kelly’s chances at success in his first year as head coach.