November 20, 2017
Just as they have throughout much of the season to this point, the Eagles' somehow found a way to overcome another injury – this time a head injury suffered by kicker Jake Elliott on the game's opening kickoff – on their way to beating the Dallas Cowboys, 37-9, and improving to 9-1 on the year.
This time, however, the Birds' next-man-up policy became a little trickier since, you know, there's typically only one placekicker on your roster.
After Elliott went to the locker room in the first quarter, the Eagles didn't kick a field goal or extra point the rest of the way, instead opting to go for two after each of their touchdowns. As for the kickoffs, that job was given to linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill, who did a damn fine job in relief, averaging 62.8 yards per kick, just shy of Elliott's 63.5 average on his first two kickoffs.
Unfortunately, that's not really a long-term solution at the position. So how do the Birds plan on dealing with their kicker situation for this Sunday's home game against the Bears? A lot of that depends on not only the health of Elliott, but also that of the guy Elliott replaced, Caleb Sturgis, who is eligible to come off Injured Reserve and has already begun kicking again after missing the last nine games.
"First of all, with Jake, he's in our [concussion] protocol obviously, so we'll evaluate him more," head coach Doug Pederson said on Monday. "We haven't made any decisions yet about this week – we still have a couple of days before we have to make any decisions on kickers."
What about Sturgis? If Elliott isn't ready, would Sturgis be activated prior to the Bears game?
"He's continuing to rehab," Pederson said. "He's begun a kicking regimen so he's getting himself back to where he was prior to the injury. He's close. He's close."
He may be close, but if the Eagles decide to activate Sturgis, it's going to come at the expense of another player's roster spot. And that's something Pederson and Howie Roseman would like to avoid if at all possible.
"Again, you're talking about roster spots and making moves and we're not there yet," Pederson added. "So we're going to continue these discussions the next couple of days."
If neither kicker is ready to go, would the Eagles dare play another game with Grugier-Hill as the interim-kickoff specialist? That's highly unlikely, but Pederson wouldn't rule out the idea of bringing someone in if needed.
"Well, I think moving forward as we continue to evaluate this week, obviously we'll find out more in the next couple of days with Jake," Pederson said. "I don't want to put myself in a box, so we'll keep all the options open for now."
But what happens if/when both Elliott and Sturgis, who coincidentally became the Eagles starting kicker after an injury to his predecessor, Cody Parkey, are healthy at the same time? The job was Sturgis' to begin with, and he only lost it because of injury. That being said, Elliott has been a revelation as a rookie, setting Eagles records and drilling 50-plus-yard kicks like they're chip-shots.
So when Elliott clears the concussion protocol, is he once again the Eagles starting kicker?
"I think so," Peterson said. "If he's healthy and can play, you'd hate to disrupt that right now. So, I'd have to say yes to that."
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