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October 27, 2023

Eagles special teams have been good in 2023

The Eagles have quietly had a very good special teams unit in 2023.

Eagles NFL
120222MichaelClay Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

Eagles special teams coordinator Michael Clay.

In 2022, the Eagles' special teams units seemed to have one really bad miscue every week for a while during the regular season, and it felt a lot like some special teams gaffe would eventually cost the team a game. Sure enough, in the Super Bowl, a bad special teams play stung them in a big way.

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This offseason, many were puzzled when it was revealed that special teams coordinator Michael Clay had not only gotten a contract extension, but also a raise.

Seven games into the 2023 season, the extension for Clay doesn't look so puzzling anymore, as the Eagles' special teams units have been good.


Jake Elliott is one of the NFL's best kickers and arguably the best kicker in Eagles history already. He is 17 of 19 (89.5%) on his field goal attempts and 17 of 18 on PATs this season. He has had three big games so far this season:

1) Week 1 at Patriots: He was 4-for-4 from distances of 32, 56, 48, and 51 yards. The 56 yarder was a particularly important kick, as it came after a 3-yard run on 3rd and 20. Elliott bailed out the coaching staff after a questionable play call.

2) Week 2 vs. Vikings: He hit a monster 61-yarder into the wind just before the end of the first half. If you take the clutch element out, that was probably the hardest kick Elliott has ever made.

3) Week 4 vs. Commanders: He was 4-for-4, including a 54-yarder for the win in overtime.

Elliott did miss a kick against the Jets that the Eagles could have used, but obviously there has been far more good than bad.


Braden Mann has been an average punter for the Eagles since joining the team Week 3. He ranks 19th out of 36 punters in EPA (expected points added) per punt, and he has a positive "punter EPA over expected." 

Translation for the non-analytics crowd: He's been fine. He's been far better than the trio of former Eagles punters at the bottom of the list above.

Kick coverage

A total of 32 of Elliott's 39 kickoffs have been touchbacks (82.1%). His career high for touchbacks in a season is 69.5 percent, in 2018. Spoiler: He won't continue to hit touchbacks at an 82 percent clip as the weather gets nastier.

Elliott has had six kicks returned when kicking off from the 35-yard line for an average of 27.8 yards per return. Ty Montgomery popped a 43-yarder Week 1 for the Patriots. The opposing average starting field position on those six returned kicks is the 31 yard line.

Elliott had one kickoff from the Eagles' 20 yard line after A.J. Brown was called for taunting against the Commanders. The kick coverage units did a good job on that kickoff, tackling the Commanders at the 36 (or, the equivalent of the 21 if it had been a normal kick from the 35).

Overall, I'd say they've been a little shaky on kick coverage whenever Elliott doesn't kick touchbacks.

Punt coverage

Eagles opponents have only tried to return seven punts against them this season. They have 70 yards, for a 10.0 return average.

Kick returns

Olamide Zaccheaus and Quez Watkins each fielded squib kicks this season, and Britain Covey returned a "free punt" after a safety for 30 yards, but otherwise the Eagles have only attempted two returns from deep this season.

Boston Scott has one return for 38 yards, and Devon Allen has one return for 17 yards.

There's not really much to evaluate there as the Eagles are happy to take the ball at the 25, like most teams.

Punt returns

Britain Covey ranks 4th in the NFL in punt return average.

 PlayerRet Yards Avg TD FC 
 Charlie Jones, CIN180 18.8 
Rashid Shaheed, NO 165 18.3 15 
Devin Duvernay, BAL 13 198 15.2 12 
Britain Covey, PHI 14 195 13.9 6 
Xavier Gipson, NYJ 10 137 13.7 

It's also noteworthy that Covey only has six fair catches on the season. There's perhaps an argument to be made that Covey is more willing to attempt punt returns even if there isn't a lot of room to run, thus hurting his punt return average. Other returners might call a fair catch and gain no additional yards, but also not hurt their punt return averages because fair catches don't count as returns.

Covey has one muffed punt, which the Eagles recovered.


The Eagles have only had two special teams penalties this season:

  1. Week 1 at Patriots: They were illegally downfield early on a play in which Siposs mishandled a snap and took longer than normal to get the punt off. 
  2. Week 6 at Jets: Kelee Ringo was flagged for kick catch interference, 15 yards, resulting in good field position for the Jets at the Eagles' 36 yard line. Their ensuing drive resulted in a made field goal.

Only one team (the Chargers) has fewer special teams penalties than the Eagles so far. There are 12 teams that have at least six special teams penalties.


The Eagles rank 4th in special teams DVOA, and the only clearly bad mistake that they have made was Ringo's kick catch interference penalty. Compare that with the laundry list of gaffes the Eagles' special teams units made a year ago, and they have been greatly improved. 

But even beyond the lack of big mistakes, the Eagles have been great in the kicking game with Elliott, as always, and Covey has emerged as a legitimate weapon on punt returns.

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