Punter Donnie Jones may be both the most important and meaningless offseason addition of the Philadelphia Eagles.
The two-time All-Pro punter was signed by the Birds this spring to solidify field position in the punt game, an area that is very close to Chip Kelly‘s heart. Kelly spends countless practice hours each week dedicated to special teams in an effort to win the field position battle week in and week out. If Monday night and Kelly’s track record are any indication, all of that work may quickly become irrelevant.
On Philadelphia’s first drive of the season, the offense encountered a third-and-four at the Washington Redskins 24-yard line. On the very next play, they were faced with a fourth-and-one. Unlike conventional wisdom that say to send the punter on the field to flip the field position game, Jones stayed on the sidelines.
Get used to it.
The element of surprise and playing the odds will likely lead to Kelly going for it on fourth down at an unprecedented rate this season, if for no other reason other than because of all the options his wide-open offense creates. “That’s the beauty of tempo,” right tackle Lane Johnson said. “We run so many plays so fast, they can’t get adjusted and can’t get the right personnel on the field to cover it all.”
Yes, the Eagles still need to consistently convert on fourth down in order for this to be effective, but the aggressiveness appears to be wired into this team’s DNA.
“Just by the feel of the game,” Kelly said. “I’ve never dealt with the odds and the percentages and you get .21 if you go for it and the risk is 68 percent and your field goal kicker — that’s way too much math for me.”
So, as valuable a weapon as Donnie Jones has the potential to be, he may need to get comfortable sitting in the holster.
Matt Lombardo is also an on-air personality on 97.5 FM The Fanatic in Philadelphia. Join the conversation and follow Matt on Twitter.