Bears’ ongoing kicker woes highlight Eagles’ stability at the position in Jake Elliott

Bears’ ongoing kicker woes highlight Eagles’ stability at the position in Jake Elliott

The best position for an NFL team to be in with their kicker is to never have to think about him. 

It seems like the Bears think about their kicker all the time. 

On Sunday, the Eagles and Bears will meet for the first time since the Double Doink ended the Bears’ 2018 season and firmly planted itself in Matt Nagy’s frontal lobe. You remember the Double Doink; Cody Parkey’s last-second field goal attempt in the wild card game was tipped by Treyvon Hester and then hit the left upright, the crossbar and bounced out. It devastated that city and it still seems like the team, especially Nagy, isn’t quite over it. 

Just as it started to look like the Bears had finally put their kicker issues in the past with Eddy Pineiro, last week he missed a 41-yard game-winner after Nagy took a knee instead of trying to pick up more yards. And then Pineiro admitted he didn’t want the ball on the left hash. He missed wide left. 

The Bears have bigger problems, but it seems like they’ve been fixated on the kicker. 

“I’m kind of glad I don't have those types of issues right now where we can just kind of focus in on our team,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said this week. 

Pederson’s right. The Eagles haven’t really had those issues. They’ve had Jake Elliott since 2017, when he came on the scene and delivered a franchise-long 61-yard game-winner in his second game with the team. The Eagles haven’t looked back. 

Since he arrived, Elliott has made 61 of 71 attempts (85.9 percent), which ranks him eighth among kickers with at least 50 attempts (he’s 8 for 8 in the playoffs). Elliott has six game-winners. He also owns two of the four longest regular season and playoff field goals in franchise history. 

And this year, Elliott has been even better. He hasn’t attempted many field goals, but he’s 9 for 9, one of just four perfect kickers in the NFL. He finally missed his first PAT last week, but there were swirling 40mph wind gusts in Buffalo, so I told Elliott I’d give him a pass on that one. 

“I appreciate that,” he said, nodding. 

The truth is that Elliott probably isn’t one of the top kickers in the NFL, but he’s good and he’s pretty reliable and that’s something the Bears wish they could have. 

After Parkey’s miss last year, Elliott was already sympathetic, but then things got even worse. Parkey went on the Today Show and Nagy seethed. Eventually, the Bears released Parkey and began a search for their next kicker. 

That search was a wild one. 

As documented in this MMQB story, the Bears brought in nine kickers for their initial rookie minicamp competition. Nine! That’s completely unheard of. And then they made all their competitors kick in front of an audience from 43 yards out, the significance of which was not lost on anyone. 

The whole thing seemed really bizarre. 

“I saw some stuff in the media about it,” Elliott said. “I didn’t follow it all that closely, to be honest. I know there was a lot of guys in. I don’t even remember who. I remember it came down to Eddy (Pineiro) and Elliott (Fry) and both of them are talented guys. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Elliott back in the league soon. I know him decently. But, yeah, it was a crazy situation.” 

The crazy thing is that none of those nine kickers won the job. The Bears traded a conditional seventh-round pick to the Raiders for Pineiro the day after that minicamp ended. The competition was between Pineiro and Fry with the former coming out on top. 

Once he won that job, he entered one of the highest-pressure jobs in the NFL. 

“I think, obviously, there was a lot of hype around it in the offseason,” Elliott said. “That’s for better or for worse. At the end of the day, the guy won the job and that’s awesome for him. He’s been kicking well there. I know he had the one miscue last week, but he won the job. Yeah, it’s a high-pressure situation, it’s a high-pressure city, it’s a high-pressure job. But you sign up for it.” 

Elliott is right. Things were going pretty well for Pineiro early. In fact, in Week 2, he made a game-winning 53-yard field goal to give the Bears a win over the Broncos and was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week. 

But last week, he missed two kicks, including the 41-yard try to win the game and prevent a three-game losing streak. Wide left. 

So as we enter a rematch of the Double Doink game, the Eagles feel really comfortable with their kicking situation. Their kicker, holder and snapper have worked together for years and are in a rhythm. They won’t have to think about it at all on Sunday. 

The Bears still can’t seem to get their kicker off their minds. 

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Former Eagle Connor Barwin hired as special assistant to the general manager

Former Eagle Connor Barwin hired as special assistant to the general manager

Connor Barwin spent a lot of time at the Eagles’ complex the last couple months of the season, and now we know exactly why.

The Eagles on Friday afternoon announced that Barwin, who spent four years playing for the Eagles, has joined the team's front office in the role of special assistant to the general manager.

I'm done playing football, but my football career is not over," Barwin said in an interview on the team’s web site. "I want to stay involved. I want to help this team wherever I can and also learn the other side of the game from the coaches and the personnel side. There's still a lot that I can learn about the on-field part of the game, as well. I love being around the game. I still want to win a Super Bowl, multiple Super Bowls.

According to the Eagles’ web site, Barwin will work with the player personnel staff during the offseason and work on player development during the season, with an emphasis on mentoring players making the challenging transition from college to the NFL.

Barwin, 33, retired after spending last year with the Giants. He began his career with the Texans before signing a six-year, $36 million deal with the Eagles before the 2013 season.

He spent four of those seasons here and made his only Pro Bowl in 2014, when he had a career-high 14 1/2 sacks - the most by any Eagle over the last eight seasons.

Despite playing only four years here, Barwin ranks 15th in franchise history with 31 1/2 sacks, tied with Mike Mamula.

When Chip Kelly and his staff were fired after the 2015 season and new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz switched from a 3-4 defense under Bill Davis to a 4-3, Barwin moved from outside linebacker to defensive end. He had five sacks in 2016 and was released after the season.

Barwin spent 2017 with the Rams and 2018 with the Giants. He had 56 1/2 sacks in 10 seasons.

"I got to play for a bunch of really great coaches and look inside how other organizations are run," Barwin said. "That's some insight that I can bring to the Eagles."

Even after he left the Eagles, Barwin always considered Philadelphia home. He has made a huge impact in the community with his Make the World a Better Place foundation, which refurbishes and rebuilds parks and rec centers in Philadelphia.

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Eagles reportedly interviewing Graham Harrell for offensive coordinator job

Eagles reportedly interviewing Graham Harrell for offensive coordinator job

We have a new and interesting name in contention to be the Eagles’ next offensive coordinator.

The Eagles on Friday interviewed Southern California offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Graham Harrell, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jeff McLane.

This is an interesting approach from the Eagles and Harrell would certainly qualify as an outside-the-box hire. 

Harrell, 34, spent last season at USC but notably has an extensive history with Mike Leach and his Air Raid Offense. Harrell played for Leach at Texas Tech from 2004-08 before going to the CFL and NFL and then coached under Leach at Washington State from 2014-15. 

So Harrell would likely be able to bring some new and potentially exciting concepts to Doug Pederson’s offense. Remember, Jeff Stoutland is the Eagles’ run game coordinator, which meant that Mike Groh was pretty much the pass game coordinator for the last two seasons before he was fired. Since he wouldn’t call plays, that would basically be Harrell’s role if he got the job in Philly. 

At USC, Harrell was hired by head coach Clay Helton when Kliff Kingsbury left after a month to take the head coaching job with the Arizona Cardinals. USC wanted to have an Air Raid style, so they turned to Harrell. 

In his one year as the offensive coordinator at USC, the Trojans improved drastically in major statistical categories on offense from 2018: 

Points per game: 26.1 to 32.5
Yards per game: 382.6 to 454.0 
Passing yards per game: 248.2 to 335.8  

Check out this interesting excerpt from an Aug. 1 story in Sports Illustrated about Harrell’s hire at USC and his thoughts on the offensive system he comes with:

“People hear Air Raid and they think five wide receivers, no tight ends, 60 pass attempts and 50 points a game. To Harrell, the Air Raid is something else. It is working to death a small number of plays, with shorter playcalls, perfecting those plays and out-executing — not out-scheming — the opponent. Option-based coaches, like former Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson, operate under similar mentalities, but with a different focus: rushing the football. Leach does it through the air. “You can’t do everything. I think a lot of people try to take a little bit of everything offensively,” Harrell says. “If you do that, you don’t have much of an identity. You’re just O.K. at everything and not really good at something.”

At times over the last few seasons, the Eagles have found success after simplifying. They’ve also found success using an up-tempo pace to get Carson Wentz into a rhythm. These seem like concepts that would mesh with Harrell’s philosophy. 

And we also know that Pederson values coaches who, like himself, were once players. After he left Texas Tech, Harrell played one season (but was injured) for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and then was a backup quarterback in Green Bay for a few seasons and with the New York Jets for a season in 2013. Harrell’s only NFL game action came in 2012 as a member of the Packers. He played in four games and threw just four career passes. 

Since then, though, he’s been a quick riser in the coaching world. And he has some fresh ideas that might help an Eagles offense that has been far too stagnant at times over the last couple seasons. 

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