Philadelphia Eagles: Special Teams Season Preview

Nov 8, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Philadelphia Eagles holder Donnie Jones (8) celebrates a field goal during fourth quarter of a game at AT&T Stadium. Eagles won 33-27. Mandatory Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 8, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Philadelphia Eagles holder Donnie Jones (8) celebrates a field goal during fourth quarter of a game at AT&T Stadium. Eagles won 33-27. Mandatory Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports /

 With training camp in full swing, we’ll be beginning a series that breaks down the Philadelphia Eagles‘ positional units to prepare for the season. Our first installment is special teams.

In the 2015 season, the Philadelphia Eagles ranked 10th overall in special teams according to Football Outsiders. The special teams unit also ranked second in punt return average (11.4) and sixth in net punting average (41.4). These statistics may sound good, but special teams coordinator, Dave Fipp, has a lot of decisions to make if he wants to restore the Eagles’ special teams to the number one spot that they held in the 2014 season.

The first special teams position battle is at the kick returner position. Last year, Josh Huff had 21 kick returns for 498 yards, but the Philadelphia Eagles have added two players that have a chance to take his spot this off-season. One of these new additions is running back, Byron Marshall.

Marshall signed with the Philadelphia Eagles as an undrafted free agent from Oregon. At Oregon, Marshall had 1003 yards off of 74 catches in his junior year. The other new addition is former Utah State wide receiver, Hunter Sharp.

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Sharp averaged 35.4 yards per return last year at Utah State and can be a very good returner in the future. Right now, I would give the edge to Josh Huff but do not be surprised if Coach Fipp goes with one of the undrafted rookies as the starting kick returner.

On the other hand, the punt return spot is pretty secure. Darren Sproles may be 5’6″ and 33 years old but there is nothing slowing the ageless wonder down.  In late July, Sproles signed a 1 year, $4.5 million extension through 2017 after leading the NFL in yards off of punt returns last season.

"“When you talk about leadership, work ethic, character, and then production — he’s made the last two Pro Bowls — he just exemplifies everything that we want to be,” Eagles’ vice president of football operations, Howie Roseman told NFL reporters on extending Sproles’ contract. “As we look at it he’s so important to this team on and off the field, it’s a no brainer from our perspective.”"

Veteran punter, Donnie Jones has also flourished under Coach Fipp. Jones finished sixth in the NFL last year in gross punting yards. But, Jones is nearing the end of his career. He is 36 years old and has not made a Pro Bowl appearance since 2009 with the St. Louis Rams. This is why the Philadelphia Eagles brought in a 26-year-old punter, Ryan Quigley. However, Quigley underperformed early in training camp and was released on May 23rd, 2016.

Another veteran who has made his name known this off-season is long snapper Jon Dorenbos. Dorenbos is not making his name known due to football, though, he has made his name known due to his magic act on the show “America’s Got Talent.” But while Dorenbos has been off performing his magic act, rookie long snapper John DePalma has been fighting for a job. The odds of the team cutting fan favorite Dorenbos is not likely, but DePalma could make the roster in the future.

Arguably, the Philadelphia Eagles’ most important special teams player is free safety, Chris Maragos. The seventh-year player brings a spark to the special teams unit that would otherwise not be there. When the Eagles led the NFL in special teams in 2014, Maragos led the team with 12 tackles and a forced fumble according to

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Although Maragos did not perform as well in 2015, Maragos has been tackling very well in training camp and should have an even better season next year. Maragos is definitely a player to watch for on special teams next year.

The Eagles certainly have plenty of question marks on offense and defense for the upcoming year but special teams is the closest they have to a sure thing right now.

Join us tomorrow as we break down the quaterback situation of the Philadelphia Eagles.