The Philadelphia Eagles‘ special teams were an excellent unit throughout the preseason, and that continued in Week 1 against the Washington Redskins. Donnie Jones pinned the Redskins inside their 10 numerous times and Alex Henery was true on a 48 yarder in what was a great start for the unit all around.
This was a far cry from what we saw last season. Jones may have pinned the Skins inside the 10 more times in one game than the Eagles’ punting unit did all of last season. The coverage on kickoffs and punts was also excellent as the Skins failed to get far past the 20-yard line on any returns, and Henery boomed half his kickoffs for touchbacks.
While the players deserve a lot of the credit – especially Jones for his booming directional punts – a l0t of credit should go to new special teams coach Dave Fipp. He has this unit playing passionate, hair on fire football on special teams which is needed for that unit. Too often in seasons past the special teams coverage units were lackadaisical not focusing on fundamentals or staying gap sound which led to big returns in the punt and kickoff game.
Fipp won’t tolerate or allow this. Head Coach Chip Kelly has also paid extra attention and focus on the special teams, and it seems to have paid off in a big way. The back end of the 53 man roster is filled with players who thrive on special teams, and for fringe players Kelly sees it as the only way to make the roster. This sense of urgency in players has led to them flying around the football.
While Damaris Johnson didn’t break off any big returns he played smart and fielded the ball only when he needed to. The Eagles flipped the field on numerous occasions and forced the Skins deep in their own territory. If there is one unit that has improved the most from last season it may be special teams. They are what wins close games. The special teams so far have been special.