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Eagles should choose potential of Jake Elliott over Caleb Sturgis' consistency

Jake Elliott is a folk hero. A legend. With his 61-yard last-second game-winning field goal against the Giants Sunday, Elliott etched his name alongside other Eagles greats who've also won games in the final seconds.

Herm. Shady. Clyde. Westbrook. DeSean. Chad Lewis. Eric Allen.

Elliott’s 61-yard field goal is the longest ever by a rookie, the longest in Eagles' history and the third-longest game-winner ever.

But is it enough for Elliott to keep his job?

That’s a more complicated question than you may think.

Elliott is only here because Caleb Sturgis hurt his hip in the season opener against the Redskins. Sturgis is on Injured Reserve, but is eligible to return after eight weeks, which would be the Eagles’ game against the Cowboys on Nov. 19.

No brainer? How do you get rid of a guy who just made a 61-yard field goal?

But here’s the thing. Sturgis has been a very good kicker for the Eagles and although it’s a very small sample size for Elliott, he has proven to have a huge leg but hasn’t yet shown the same consistency as Sturgis.

The Eagles have six games left to figure this out.

Sturgis, who the Eagles signed when Cody Parkey got hurt early in the 2015 season, has made 56 of 66 field goals in an Eagles' uniform, and that’s good for 84.8 percent, third-best in Eagles' history (behind Parkey’s 87.5 and Alex Henery’s 86.0).

But Sturgis also has a big leg. He’s 7 for 11 from 50 yards and out, including two 53-yarders and a 55. Nobody in Eagles' history has made more field goals from 53 yards and out than Sturgis, and he’s done it in only 30 games in an Eagles uniform and with just one miss.

Elliott has a huge leg obviously, but he’s also already missed from 30 yards against the Chiefs and 52 yards against the Giants. So Elliott is 1 for 2 from 52 yards or farther as an Eagle, and Sturgis is 4 for 5.

Of the 30 kickers who've attempted at least three kicks from 52 yards or more since opening day 2015, Sturgis's 80 percent accuracy is third-best. So he's no slouch from deep.

And then there’s Elliott's 30-yard miss. Granted, it came in his first NFL game, and he’s sure bounced back from it. But Sturgis has never missed from 30 yards or shorter, going 44 for 44 in his time with the Dolphins and Eagles.

Elliott's most impressive kick so far might actually have been his 46-yarder a few seconds before the 61-yarder, simply because it was a much higher-pressure kick. If he missed the 46-yarder, the Eagles lose. If he missed the 61-yarder, the game just would have gone into overtime. And there's certainly an expectation that any NFL kicker has to make a 46-yarder. That's a 74 percent kick in the NFL over the last couple years.

Sturgis and Elliott are both due to become free agents after this season, so that's not going to be a factor, although Elliott will be cheaper as a second-year player.

The guess here is that Elliott will show enough consistency in these next six games in the crucial zone — 45 to 50 yards — to win the job. 

Sturgis is 75 percent in an Eagles' uniform from 40 to 49 yards and the NFL average during that span is 78 percent, so he's right around the NFL average.

Elliott is 2 for 2 so far from 40-49 and if he can show accuracy in that all-important range over the next six weeks to go with his unprecedented range, he'll stay.

Sturgis is a good kicker. Elliott — who won a couple awards Friday for his heroics — has the potential to be a great kicker.

The Eagles stole him from the Bengals and I'd be surprised if they let somebody else steal him from them.