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Eagles’ special teams units continued regression under new staff


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Eagles’ special teams units continued regression under new staff


The Eagles improved in a lot of areas in 2021 under Nick Sirianni and his first-year coaching staff.

Special teams was not one of them.

After eight years with Dave Fipp in charge of special teams, the Eagles and Sirianni hired one of Fipp’s former assistants, Michael Clay, to be the team’s new special teams coordinator in 2021.

The Eagles finished the season as the 10th ranked defense, the 14th ranked offense, but their special teams units finished even lower.

In his annual ranking of special teams units across the NFL, longtime football columnist Rick Gosselin ranked the Eagles’ special teams unit as the No. 21 unit in the NFL. That’s lower than they ever were under Fipp in his eight years in control with the Eagles.

Gosselin, now working for SI.com, ranks the units on 22 different categories and assigns point values for each. Check out the full list here.

Before the end of Fipp’s time with the Eagles, we began to see some clear regression with the special teams units but some of that could be explained away by a few factors. One, it seemed like the Eagles were less willing to have reserved spots for special teams aces, guys like Bryan Braman and Chris Maragos. But perhaps more importantly, the roster in the last couple years under Doug Pederson was ravaged by injury and nowhere gets hit harder by injury that special teams because there were constantly new players in the mix.

Here’s a look back at the Eagles’ ranking in every season under Fipp:

2020: 17th 

2019: 15th

2018: 14th

2017: 13th

2016: 1st

2015: 5th

2014: 1st

2013: 19th

Fipp, by the way, went to Detroit. While the Lions were very bad overall this year, they finished ranked No. 7 in the league in these special teams rankings.

During his year-end press conference on Wednesday, when asked if his coordinators and position coaches would be retained, Nick Sirianni said he really liked his staff but was still in the evaluation process. As of the middle of the week, Sirianni hadn’t yet met with Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie but looked forward to going over "all those things” with him.

My colleague Reuben Frank earlier this week made the case for moving on from Clay after one season.

It wasn’t all bad for the first-year special teams coordinator. Jake Elliott had a career year, the Eagles blocked a couple kicks and we don’t really know who made the decision to keep putting Jalen Reagor deep as a returner.

"As of right now, again, I'm evaluating everything like I would at the end of the year,” Sirianni said. "I'm evaluating every player. I'm meeting with every player. I'm evaluating every coach. I'm meeting with every coach. I'm really happy with the people we have in this building. I'm really happy with the staff that we have, and I look forward to continuing to work with them.”


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