Eagles

Under Doug Pederson, much should change for Eagles — except special teams

Under Doug Pederson, much should change for Eagles — except special teams

The offense will huddle.

The defense is back to a 4-3.

The Eagles' special teams ... should remain the same.

Oftentimes when a new head coach comes in, he’ll bring in an entirely new coaching staff, replacing most, if not all, of the coordinators. But Doug Pederson chose to keep Dave Fipp around, and for good reason. 

“[Pederson] still lets Fipp do what Fipp’s done for the last three or four years,” special teams stalwart Trey Burton said Monday. “I don’t think anything has changed.”

Two players that haven't changed are returner Darren Sproles and punter Donnie Jones. Sproles has made the Pro Bowl as a return specialist the last two seasons. Jones in the last three years has become the franchise's record-holder in both net and gross punting average. 

In 2014, the Eagles’ special teams ranked No. 1 in the league, according to columnist Rick Gosselin, who annually ranks special teams for The Dallas Morning News.

That year, Sproles, kicker Cody Parkey and long-snapper Jon Dorenbos all made the Pro Bowl for special teams.

Last year, the Eagles finished second in punt return average (11.4) and sixth in net punting average (41.6). 

But special teams is more than just kickers and return men. The guys behind the scenes — guys like Burton, Chris Maragos, Bryan Braman and Najee Goode — are what help make this unit so great.

Last year the Eagles recorded three special teams TDs and finished fifth in Gosselin's rankings.

“We were one of the top special teams in the league last year, so our main goal is to try to stay in the top five,” cornerback Denzel Rice said. “Our focus level is the same for the most part.”

Rice is on the cusp of cracking the Eagles' roster, so with seemingly more depth at the cornerback position, standing out on special teams may be his ticket to a roster spot.

“Special teams is special for a reason,” Rice said. “We have to hone in on our technique and our focus so that we can excel during the season.”

Burton has carved out a role on special teams after signing as an undrafted free agent in 2014. He logged 420 special teams snaps last year, second most on the team behind Braman, and led the team in special teams tackles with 19.

“It’s extremely important,” Burton said. “In my scenario, I was the fourth tight end, so there was no chance of me playing on offense. You just have to understand your role and a lot of times it’s on special teams, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

It didn't take long to see special teams to make an impact this preseason. On the opening kickoff last Thursday against the Buccaneers, Goode punched the ball out, and Maragos recovered it inside the 20-yard line.

“I think it’s been really cool to see how [Pederson] values special teams,” Maragos said. “The importance of field position, he understands what our special teams unit can do from an explosive standpoint and helping our team win ballgames. He’s all on board, he gives us the time we need to go out there and practice.”

Eagles 2018 regular-season breakdown (Part 1)

Eagles 2018 regular-season breakdown (Part 1)

A game-by-game breakdown of the Eagles’ 2018 regular-season schedule.

For Weeks 9-17, click right here. Let’s break down Weeks 1-8 below.

Week 1: Falcons at Eagles
8:20 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018
Lincoln Financial Field

The Falcons come to Philadelphia for a third straight season. The Eagles won 24-15 at the Linc in 2016 and 15-10 last year in the conference semifinal round of the playoffs. The Eagles are 6-1 all-time against the Falcons at the Linc, with the only loss coming in 2012. They’re 19-14-1 all-time vs. the Falcons and 11-6-1 at home. The Falcons’ last win over the Eagles came in 2015 at the Georgia Dome. Going back to 2000, the Eagles have won 10 of the last 14 games against Atlanta.
 
Week 2: Eagles at Buccaneers
1 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018
Raymond James Stadium

The Eagles travel to Tampa for the first time in five years to face the Buccaneers. They’re 4-3 all-time in Tampa and 3-1 at Raymond James. The Bucs beat the Eagles 45-17 at the Linc in 2015 in their last meeting. The Eagles won in 2013 in the last game in Tampa. Overall, the Eagles are 10-8 against the Bucs.
 
Week 3: Colts at Eagles
1 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018
Lincoln Financial Field

From 1996 through 2006, the Eagles lost four straight to the Colts by an average of 25 points. But they’ve won the two matchups since, at the Linc in 2010 and at Lucas Oil Stadium in 2014. Including their years in Baltimore, the Eagles are 9-10 all-time vs. the Colts and 5-5 at home but just 1-0 at the Linc. Since the Colts moved to Indianapolis, the Eagles are 4-5 against them.
 
Week 4: Eagles at Titans
1 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018
Nissan Stadium

The Titans have won four of the last five games against the Eagles, although the Eagles won the last meeting, 43-24, at the Linc in 2014. The Eagles are 7-4 all-time against the Titans/Oilers franchise and 3-2 on the road, but the last road win was the House of Pain game at the Astrodome in 1991. The Eagles  are 0-2 against the Titans in Nashville.
 
Week 5: Eagles vs. Vikings
4:25 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018
Lincoln Financial Field

The Eagles have won seven of their last nine games against the Vikings, including a 38-7 rout in last year’s NFC Championship Game at the Linc. They are 4-1 at the Linc vs. the Vikings, 10-6 in Philly and 14-13 all-time in a series dating back to 1962. Since 1980, the Eagles have won 14 of 20 matchups, including all four postseason meetings. The Eagles have won eight of their last nine home games against the Vikings, with the only loss coming in 2010.
 
Week 6: Eagles at Giants
8:20 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 14, 2018
MetLife Stadium

The Eagles are 9-2 in their last 11 meetings with the Giants in East Rutherford, and their last three wins on the road against the Giants have come with different coaches at the helm – Chip Kelly in 2014, Pat Shurmur in 2015 and Doug Pederson in 2017. The Eagles’ only losses at MetLife Stadium since it opened in 2010 came in 2012 and 2016.
 
Week 7: Panthers at Eagles
1 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018
Lincoln Financial Field

The Eagles and Panthers meet for the fifth time in seven years. The Eagles beat Carolina 28-23 in Charlotte, N.C., last October, and won the last meeting in Philadelphia 45-21 in 2014. The Eagles are 7-4 all-time vs. the Panthers, 4-2 at home and 3-2 at the Linc. The Eagles’ last home loss to Carolina came in 2012, late in Andy Reid’s final season as head coach.
 
Week 8: Eagles at Jaguars
9:30 a.m., Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018
Wembley Stadium, London

After losing their first three games against the Jaguars, the Eagles have won the last two, in Jacksonville in 2010 by 25 points and at the Linc in 2014 by 17 points. The Eagles are 1-2 against the Jaguars in Jacksonville, with the losses coming in 1997 and 2002. The Eagles have never played a regular-season game in London. The Jaguars have played every year since 2013 at Wembley, where they are 3-2.

Eagles 2018 regular-season breakdown (Part 2)

Eagles 2018 regular-season breakdown (Part 2)

A game-by-game breakdown of the Eagles’ 2018 regular-season schedule.

For Weeks 1-8, click right here. Let’s break down Weeks 9-17 below.

Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018
Bye week

Week 10: Cowboys at Eagles
8:20 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018
Lincoln Financial Field

The Cowboys have given the Eagles more trouble than any other division team of late, winning four of the last seven meetings and five of the last six at the Linc. The Eagles’ only home wins over the Cowboys since 2009 have been in 2011 and 2016. The Eagles overall are 52-66 against the Cowboys, 28-29 in Philly and 6-9 at the Linc. The Eagles haven’t swept the Cowboys since 2011. They lost, 6-0, to the Cowboys on the last day of last season with Nate Sudfeld playing most of the game at quarterback.

Week 11: Eagles at Saints
1 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018
Mercedes-Benz Superdome

The Eagles are 17-13 all-time vs. the Saints but have lost five of seven meetings dating back to 2006. They beat the Saints at the Linc in 2015 after losing to them in a playoff game in 2014. Their last game in New Orleans was a 28-13 loss in 2012. They last won in New Orleans late in the 2007 season. Overall, they’re 8-9 in New Orleans but they’re 8-5 since the Saints moved from Tulane Stadium to the Superdome.

Week 12: Giants at Eagles
1 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018
Lincoln Financial Field

The Eagles are 16-4 in their last 20 games against the Giants, including a four-game home winning streak. A win at the Linc this year would give the Eagles their longest home winning streak against the Giants since they won five straight from 1988 through 1992. The Eagles last year swept the Giants for the third time in the last four years, with the two wins coming by a total of just eight points. The Eagles are 84-86-2 all-time vs. the Giants, including a 10-6 record at the Linc.

Week 13: Redskins at Eagles
8:15 p.m., Monday, Dec. 3, 2018
Lincoln Financial Field

The Eagles swept the Redskins last year for the first time since 2013 after losing five straight against their division rivals. Overall, the Eagles are 78-86-6 against the Redskins in a series that dates back to 1934. They’re 39-42-3 at home against the ‘Skins and 8-7 at the Linc. The Redskins have beaten the Eagles six times in their last 12 meetings at the Linc.

Week 14: Eagles at Cowboys
4:25 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018
AT&T Stadium

The Eagles have won six of their last eight games in Dallas, losing only in 2012 by five points and in 2016 in overtime. Their 28-point margin of victory at AT&T Stadium last November was the Cowboys’ ninth-worst home loss ever. Their last three home losses by 28 or more points have been against the Eagles. The Eagles are 24-37 all-time against Dallas on the road but 6-4 at AT&T Stadium.

Week 15: Eagles at Rams
8:20 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018
LA Memorial Coliseum

The Eagles have won five straight games against the Rams, including two wins in St. Louis, two at the Linc and last year’s comeback in L.A. after losing Carson Wentz for the season. The Eagles are 21-19-1 all-time against the Rams, 6-11-1 on the road and 1-5 at LA Coliseum. Their last loss to the Rams was a meaningless late-season game in 2004. Their last loss to the Rams in Los Angeles came in 1977.

Week 16: Texans at Eagles
1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018
Lincoln Financial Field

The Eagles have never lost to the Texans, beating them in Houston in 2006 on opening day and in 2014 and in Philly in 2002 and 2010, with all four wins by double digits and by an average of 13 points per game. The Texans and Jets are the only current NFL franchises the Eagles have never lost to.

Week 17: Eagles at Redskins
1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018
FedEx Field

The Eagles have lost three of their last four games at FedEx Field, with those three losses coming by an average of about four points per game. They did win by 10 points last year during their nine-game winning streak, their biggest win in Landover since 2010. The Eagles are 37-44-3 all-time vs. the Redskins on the road, including three games played in Boston in the 1930s. They’re 12-9 all-time at FedEx Field.