Eagles

Film shows how Eagles blocked 3 kicks

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Film shows how Eagles blocked 3 kicks

The Eagles have had one of the best special teams units in the NFL for the last several years, but the last few weeks have been a little disappointing. They just hadn't lived up to their incredibly high standard. 

That changed Sunday in East Rutherford (see story).

In the 34-29 win over the Giants on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, the Eagles' special teams group made some huge plays that helped the team squeak out the win. In fact, they became the first NFL team to block an extra point, field goal and punt in the same game since the 1991 Bills. 

"All week we knew we could do things here, pick apart them here," Kamu Grugier-Hill said, "so we went in with a really good plan and we executed."

Let's take a look at all three of those huge plays: 

The Giants just cruised down the field on the opening drive of the game. They went 75 yards on 13 plays and made it look pretty easy. The extra point, even after moving it back, is still pretty much a formality in the NFL. But rookie Derek Barnett (circled) was about to go hard on this play. 


Barnett simply uses a quick swim move to go right past left tackle Ereck Flowers, who didn't give much effort. It looked like he was worried about the rush coming inside, but Barnett got around him really easily and had a clear path to the kick. Sure, the Eagles overloaded that side, but Flowers didn't block anyone. 

Barnett got his right hand up and rejected the kick like a basketball player swatting a jump shot. 

Take a look at the video. Nice swim move from Barnett, but the Giants just need to get some better effort out of a veteran player who looked like he took a special teams play off. 

At the time, maybe this play didn't seem huge, but the Eagles drove down the field on the ensuing drive to take a 7-6 lead. And eventually, when the Giants scored to make it a two-point game in late in the third, they went for two and failed. 

This next play came with 3:23 left in the first half. The Giants had a three-and-out and are punting the ball away. They're up 20-14 at this point. Grugier-Hill (circled) is going to end up getting the block on this play, but it's going to be set up by Bryan Braman, who just got back into town earlier in the week. 

At the snap, Braman pushes inside, which creates a lane for Grugier-Hill. Darian Thompson (circled in green) should pick up Grugier-Hill coming through the line, but instead tries to help block Braman, who garners plenty of attention himself. 

The result is Grugier-Hill's coming with a free lane to the punter to force the block. 

This blocked punt gave Nick Foles and the Eagles' offense the ball at the Giants' 18-yard line. Three plays later, Foles hit a wide-open Trey Burton for a 13-yard touchdown to give the Eagles a 21-20 lead with just over two minutes left in the half. 

This is the most fun one. 

The last play we'll look at was a 48-yard field goal attempt from the Giants early in the fourth quarter. Malcolm Jenkins (circled), who has amazingly played 139 special teams snaps this year on top of his huge workload on defense, is going to make the play. 

At the snap, Brandon Graham (circled) takes a step back, which leaves offensive lineman Jon Halapio off-balance. Halapio's momentum took him forward to block, but then there was nothing there, so he literally fell down. 

Had Graham pushed forward, the lineman would have blocked him, but it would have created more congestion at the line. In this case, Halapio was completely out of the way. 

Once Halapio falls down, it creates enough of a hole for Jenkins (circled) to jump through and have a straight path to the field goal attempt. Meanwhile, Ronald Darby was coming off the edge and got close too. 

"We saw some things on tape that we knew we could attack," Jenkins said. "I've been close a few times over the years, but wasn't able to get one. I was able to come through clean and get a hand on the ball."

 

At this point, the Giants were down just two points. If they make this field goal, they take a fourth-quarter lead. 

These three blocks were huge on Sunday afternoon. Sure, the third-quarter neutral zone infraction from Najee Goode was a big play. It allowed the Giants to stay on the field and then score a touchdown. But as PhillyVoice's Jimmy Kempski pointed out, it sure looks like Goode was drawn off. Goode still can't jump there in a 4th-and-4 situation. 

But aside from that penalty, the Eagles got the kind of game from their special teams unit that they desperately needed. And it got them a win on Sunday. 

Eagles hoping no-risk, high-reward veteran signings can rekindle past success

Eagles hoping no-risk, high-reward veteran signings can rekindle past success

When you’re in salary cap hell, you have to be creative when building a roster.

And one tactic Howie Roseman used when putting together the Eagles team that begins training camp Thursday is signing a handful of no-risk, high-reward guys.

Players trying to revive their careers. Players trying to reclaim past glory. Players running out of chances.

These are no-risk, high-reward guys. They could become contributors, but if it doesn’t work out? The Eagles can release them before the season with modest or no cap ramifications.

When you’re in salary cap hell, you can’t sign all the free agents you want. So you sign the free agents that you can. And you do that by signing players nobody else wants. Guys with no leverage.

One tool Roseman likes to use is the NFL’s minimum-salary benefit, which gives teams some salary cap relief when they sign veteran players to certain deals.

The minimum-salary benefit can be used only for veterans with at least four years of experience who sign one-year minimum-wage deals with combined bonuses equalling $90,000 or less. 

Here’s a look at four of these no-risk, high-reward players the Eagles added this offseason.

Markus Wheaton

The Eagles signed Wheaton to a one-year deal with a $790,000 base salary (sixth-year minimum) with a $45,000 signing bonus, a $45,000 workout bonus but a cap number of $720,000, thanks to the minimum-salary benefit.

If the Eagles release Wheaton before the season, he would count just $90,000 against the cap, the value of his two bonuses.

Wheaton is only 27 and should be in his prime but has done nearly nothing the last two seasons after two very good years.

In 2014 and 2015, he combined for 97 catches for 1,393 yards, seven touchdowns and a 14.4 average. He had seven catches of 40 yards or more during those two years. Pretty good production.

But the last two years, Wheaton had just seven catches for 102 yards and one TD for the Steelers and Bears.

If he’s healthy and can be even half the player he was in 2014 and 2015, he could really help as a fourth receiver.

Matt Jones

The Eagles signed Jones to a two-year, $1.51 million deal that includes base salaries of $705,000 this year and $805,000 next year with no bonus money, which means no dead cap money if he’s released.

Even though Jones’ deal is not subject to the minimum-salary benefit, his base salaries of $705,000 and $805,000 are minimum wage for a third-year veteran in 2018 and a fourth-year vet in 2019.

Jones was one of the NFL’s best running backs the first half of 2016. Through seven games, he had 460 yards and a 4.6 average with three TDs. In a mid-October win over the Eagles at FedEx Field, he ran for 135 yards, the most rushing yards against the Eagles the last two years.

But he hurt his knee and never got his job back, then was released before last season. He resurfaced with the Colts but had only five carries all year.

Jones is only 25 and is a good enough receiver that he caught 19 passes for 304 yards and a TD as a rookie reserve.

With LeGarrette Blount gone, Jay Ajayi on a pitch count because of chronic knee soreness, Corey Clement’s role still undefined and Darren Sproles likely to be limited on offense at 35 years old, Jones will have a chance to work his way into the mix.

And if it doesn’t work out? No cap hit.

Richard Rodgers

The Eagles signed Rodgers to a one-year, $880,000 contract that includes a $790,000 base salary, a $45,000 signing bonus, a $45,000 workout bonus and a $720,000 cap figure, courtesy of the minimum-salary benefit rule.

If the Eagles release him, he’ll count $245,000 in dead money, the amount of guaranteed money in his one-year deal.

As recently as 2015, Rodgers caught 58 passes for 510 yards and eight touchdowns, which ranked him 12th among all NFL tight ends in catches and fifth in TDs. But he dropped to 30 catches in 2016 and just 12 last year.

Rodgers is only 26 and should be in his prime, but he’s reached only 30 yards twice in his last 31 games.

With Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, the Eagles have a potent 1-2 punch, but if Rodgers can regain his form of 2015, it would give Doug Pederson even more options in a ridiculously talented array of skill players.

LaRoy Reynolds

The Eagles signed Reynolds to a one-year, $880,000 contract that includes a $790,000 base salary, a $90,000 roster bonus and a reduced $720,000 cap figure.

Because there’s nothing guaranteed in his contract, the Eagles would not absorb any dead money under the cap if they release him before the season.

Reynolds, now with his fourth team in four years, has played in 68 games with seven starts. He’s only 27 and is considered an above-average special teamer and adequate depth linebacker.

The Eagles have some big question marks at linebacker, with Paul Worrilow (Reynolds’ former teammate) out for the year, Mychal Kendricks now with the Browns, Nigel Bradham suspended for the opener and Jordan Hicks able to finish one of his first three seasons.

Reynolds will have a chance to work into that mix. If not? No harm done.

More on the Eagles

Eagle Eye: When does a contract negotiation become a problem?

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Eagle Eye: When does a contract negotiation become a problem?

In the latest edition of Eagle Eye, John Clark and Barrett Brooks are pumped for the start of training camp. Following MLB Commissioner's comments on Mike Trout's marketability, the guys discuss if it's on the player or the league to market an athlete? The Falcons said they will not give Julio Jones a new contract. At what point does a public contract negotiation become a distraction in the locker room?

1:00 - Guys are excited for the start of training camp.
4:45 - Is it on a player or a league to market an athlete?
11:00 - When does a Julio Jones contract situation become a locker room distraction?
18:00 - When money starts dividing a locker room.

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