Philadelphia Eagles Training Camp Observations

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5. Special Teams Should Continue to be a Strength in 2015

Jan 21, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Team Carter kicker Cody Parkey of the Philadelphia Eagles (1) during the Pro Bowl Draft at The Arizona Biltmore. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Though they may have lost their best gunner in Brandon Boykin and almost certainly won’t be able to replicate their record-setting performance in 2014, the Eagles specials teams units should once again impress this season. They return a solid young kicker in Cody Parkey, a dependable punter in Donnie Jones, the best long snapper in football in Jon Dorenbos, and a host of return options that each have the capabilities of taking one to the house. Mix in the return of the majority of one of the best coverage teams in the game, and 2015 should be another banner year for Dave Fipp’s unit. 

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The team spent a good portion of the practice working on kickoff and punt returns on Sunday. Darren Sproles, Josh Huff, Ryan Mathews, and Agholor each took significant reps fielding kicks. Each player demonstrates their own style that could prolong the Eagles’ run of success as one of the most dangerous teams in that area. Mathews is an especially intriguing option in the kickoff game. His aggressive style and minimal wasted movement could maximize lanes created by blockers. Possessing the vision of a running back is also something to consider with Mathews returning kicks.

Especially after the disaster that was Alex Henery, Parkey felt Heaven-sent in 2014. Parkey parlayed his record season into a Pro Bowl berth and an apparent stranglehold on the team’s placekicking role for the foreseeable future. Though under no pressure whatsoever, Parkey drilled a handful of 45+ yard kicks, including his last practice attempt from 58 yards. Barring a serious case of the yips, Parkey doesn’t look he’ll be going anywhere anytime soon.

There is something refreshing about watching special teams play during training camp. Often times, those making up the primary groups are fighting for roster spots and doing anything they can to stand out. Chip Kelly and his coaching staff have emphasized special teams since his arrival and that is evident in practice. Every individual on each unit plays with a purpose and engages whoever they can, regardless of which situation the team is practicing. Special teams is a commitment and as strong an indicator of mental fortitude as there is in the game.