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July 20, 2019

Eagles training camp preview: Specialists

Eagles NFL
072019JakeElliott James Lang/USA TODAY Sports

Jake Elliott would not know where to kick the ball, if not for the helpful fans in the stands holding the arrow signs. They're the true heroes.

Leading up to training camp, we've been taking a look at every player on the Philadelphia Eagles' roster, and how they fit with the team. In case you've missed any of our previous positional previews, you can catch up here.


TRAINING CAMP PREVIEWS:

 QB | RB | WR | TE | OT | iOL | DE | DT | LB | CB | S


Today we'll finish off the series with the specialists.

 
Jake Elliott Kamu Grugier-Hill 
 Cameron Johnston 
LS  Rick Lovato 


Jake Elliott

In his rookie season with the Eagles in 2017, Elliott made 26 of 31 field goals, including a 61-yarder to beat the Giants at the end of regulation in Week 3. It was something of an oddball season as a kicker, as he was money on the long kicks, but was shaky on the short ones. In 2018, Elliott was once again 26 of 31, but his misses were more normal, as they were generally of the long kick variety. A look at his first two seasons in the league:

 Jake Elliott20-29 30-39 40-49 50+ XPM-XPA 
 20175-5 4-7 12-13 5-6 39-42 
 20187-7 10-11 7-8 2-5 33-35 


In both of his seasons in the NFL (and therefore also for his career so far), Elliott is hitting field goals at an 83.9 percent clip. That was good for 21st in the NFL among kickers with at least 15 attempts in 2018 (it was good for 17th in 2017), in a league where kickers are far more precise than they used to be. In other words, he's close to the league average in that department.

Elliott is also roughly at the league average on missed PATs, of which he had two in 2018. There were 64 missed PATs in the NFL this season, which averages out to two per team.

Where Elliott has stood out in his Eagles' career so far, however, is that he has ice water in his veins in clutch situations. In 2017 alone, he did the following:

• He made the aforementioned game-winning 61-yard field goal against the Giants. 

• In the Super Bowl, he hit an underrated 46-yarder with just over a minute to play to extend the Eagles' lead to eight points. Would the Eagles have won the Super Bowl if he doesn't make that kick?

• He was 4/4, hitting from 45, 40, 53, and 47 against the Chargers in a game the Eagles only won by two points.

• He was 2/2, hitting from 50 and 48 in a close game against the Panthers.

• He was 3/3 against the Rams, including a pair of fourth quarter kicks. That game was way closer than the 43-35 score would indicate, as the Eagles got a defensive touchdown with no time left on the clock.

In 2018, Elliott made some big kicks at home against the Texans, Giants, and Cowboys, but none that will be remembered in 10 years. He did have a first-quarter miss against the Panthers that faded to the right in heavy winds in a game where the Eagles could have used those points.

On kickoffs, Elliott can reliably kick it through the back of the end zone when asked, and is also good at hitting popups that land just shy of the goal line.

Elliott turned 24 this offseason, and it's reasonable to expect that he'll only get better. He signed a cheap exclusive rights free agent tender this offseason. Next year he'll be a restricted free agent.

Cameron Johnston

After a brutal start to to the Eagles' offseason camps, Johnston improved dramatically, and hit the longest punt I've ever seen in person during a preseason game against the Steelers:

During the regular season, Johnston was third in the NFL both with a 48.1 punting average, and a 42.7 yard net. Obviously, he had a quiet (quiet is good), but great season.

Rick Lovato

Back in the day, I used to watch every long snap of the season. For real, I had serious problems. I don't do that anymore, and as such, I can't speak intelligently on the accuracy or speed of Lovato's snaps, so let's just go the lazy route here and just say that he didn't have any egregious mistakes that I can recall last season. Good? Good.

All three of the Eagles' specialists have no training camp competition.


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