July 24, 2018
Leading up to training camp, we've taken a look at every player on the Philadelphia Eagles' roster, and how they fit with the team. In case you've missed any of them, you can catch up here.
• He hit a 53-yard field goal against the Falcons to close the first half, after Keanu Neal had a gift INT bounce off his knee and into Torrey Smith's hands.
Elliott was an incredible in-season acquisition after the Eagles lost Caleb Sturgis to injury. Sturgis signed with the Chargers this offseason, and Elliott clearly isn't going anywhere, as the Eagles opted not to give him any kind of competition in training camp. It seems like in recent years when Eagles kickers went unopposed in camp, they faltered in varying degrees. Maybe Elliott can break that trend.
After Donnie J'owns (cough) "retired," Johnston, who had signed a futures contract at the end of the regular season, was left as the only remaining punter on the roster. I think the Eagles were open to Johnston replacing J'owns last season, but J'owns clearly beat out Johnston in camp.
Johnston did not have a stellar spring, though the Eagles still have not brought in any competition for him. When asked if Johnston would be getting competition, special teams coach Dave Fipp noted (we're paraphrasing here) that Johnston is essentially competing against the rest of the league, which can be harder because you don't actually get to see your competition every day at practice.
There was some hand-wringing about the field goal operation potentially going in the toilet after the Eagles traded Jon Dorenbos to the Saints to make way for Lovato. As it turned out, the trade may have saved Dorenbos' life, and Lovato was a perfectly capable long snapper (although Donnie did bail him out on one field goal snap in the Super Bowl). Lovato has no camp competition in 2018.
Maragos is one of the best special teams players in the NFL when healthy. His health is in question as he missed all of spring practices after suffering a serious knee injury against the Carolina Panthers last season. He is also one of the fastest players on the roster, so it will be interesting to see if he can regain his speed, which is crucial to his ability to perform on special teams.
Maragos is a respected player in the locker room, and an organizational favorite. However, he'll also count for $2 million against the cap in 2018, $1.5 million of which the team would save if they released him. I believe that Maragos will be back this season, but a release wouldn't be out of the question if he's not the same player.
Kick returner duty is something of a question mark heading into training camp. In 2017, the primary kick returner was Kenjon Barner, who signed with the Panthers this offseason. Outside of Barner, the only players to return kicks last year (if we aren't counting Brent Celek) were Wendell Smallwood (4 returns) and Corey Clement (2 returns).
A season ago, the Eagles were content to take a knee any time a kickoff reached the end zone, knowing that they had a great offense that they felt could drive the field from the 25 yard line. With the NFL adding an idiotic rule in which the kick coverage team won't get a running start on kickoffs, there's perhaps more potential for big plays on kick returns. It will be interesting to see how the Eagles adapt to that change.
Anyway, we'll project Clement to be the kick returner for now, since Smallwood has an uphill climb just to make the team, and it's probably too violent a play for Sproles at his age.
Sproles will return for one last season after he didn't want his career ended by an injury. His role may be diminished to some degree in the regular offense, but there's little question that he'll be the primary punt returner.
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