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

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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.

How Combine might have changed Eagles' WR plans

How Combine might have changed Eagles' WR plans

The 2020 wide receiver draft picture got a lot more interesting Thursday night.

Alabama’s Henry Ruggs did his thing and ran 4.28 when the receivers ran their 40's at the Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. He didn't break John Ross's record of 4.22, but he certainly did nothing to hurt his draft status. 

Neither did his college teammate, Jerry Jeudy, or Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb. They remain the consensus top three receivers in the draft, and the Eagles, who have the 21st pick in the first round, would likely have to trade up to draft any of them.

But a few receivers helped themselves with their performances in Indy and a few may have hurt their stock as well, and it all could definitely affect the receiver-starved Eagles’ strategy in April.


JUSTIN JEFFERSON,  LSU: Joe Burrow’s favorite target ran much faster than expected with a 4.43. We already know he’s productive - he caught a ridiculous 111 passes for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns - and he backed that up with a faster 40 time than Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy. How much that helps him remains to be seen, but he definitely helped himself.

CHASE CLAYPOOL, NOTRE DAME: There’s been talk about the 6-4, 240-pound Claypool moving to tight end, but then he went out and ran 4.42, which according to the Next Gen Stats twitter feed makes him the first receiver over 230 pounds to run sub-4.45 since Calvin Johnson in 2007. He also caught the ball well and performed well in the other drills. 

DENZEL MIMS, BAYLOR: Mims opened a lot of eyes with a 4.38 Thursday night to cap an overall excellent performance. Only Ruggs and Southern Mississippi’s Quez Watkins ran faster. Mims was generally considered a second-round talent before the Combine but running 4.38 at 6-3, 210 pounds could push him into the first round. 


JALEN REAGOR, TEXAS CHRISTIAN: Reagor, whose father Montae played for the Eagles in 2007, said he planned to run faster than Ruggs: “That’s my plan. He runs after me. I’m going to set the bar for him.”  He also said he expected to run “high 4.2, low 4.3.”  Then he ran 4.47, a full fifth of a second slower than Ruggs. He followed that with a 4.50. How much that hurts him remains to be seen, but it wasn’t what anybody was expecting. 

TEE HIGGINS, CLEMSON: Higgins told reporters at the Combine that he was planning to prove a lot of people wrong with his 40:  “My goal is to hit a 4.4. A lot of guys think I’m gonna run a 4.5 or 4.6, but I’m excited to change people’s minds.” Then without explanation he didn’t run or participate in any drills Thursday night. Not good. 

LAVISKA SHENAULT JR., COLORADO: After a slower-than-expected 4.58 on his first try, Shenault skipped his second 40 and didn’t participate in the other drills, presumably because of the core muscle injury that cost him a couple games during the season. Shenault was considered a late first-round or early second-rounder. He’ll have a chance to bounce back at his pro day, but he didn’t help himself Thursday.

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Temple LBs and roommates in heated competition for combine supremacy

Temple LBs and roommates in heated competition for combine supremacy

Temple linebackers Shaun Bradley and Chapelle Russell know they will have a ton on the line Saturday when their position group gets on the field for drills at the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. 

Their football careers hang in the balance. 

Not to mention bragging rights. 

Throughout the last few months, the two close friends have been in a heated competition and back-and-forth trash talk battle. Bradley was training with EXOS in Phoenix; Russell was training with EXOS in San Diego. The whole time, they kept texting each other performance numbers and egging each other on. 

That competition reached a new level this week when the two found out they were rooming together in Indianapolis. 

“That’s all we do. We sit in the room and talk about who’s going to win the 40, who’s going to have the fastest (time),” Bradley said. “We do it all day. It’s nonstop. We’ll joke, we’ll talk about it. As soon as one thing hits, he’s like, ‘I’m about to run a faster 40 than you.’ ‘No you’re not.’ Back and forth, back and forth.”

At Temple, the pair of starting linebackers lived together in a house on campus, so it’s a familiar feeling to be together this week at the combine. And in such a high-pressure situation, with so much on the line, it’s comforting for both to go through it all with a close friend. 

Bradley and Russell will be rooting for each other on Saturday but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to outperform each other.  

“It’s been cool,” Russell said. “We always talk trash with each other about who’s faster, who’s going to do this, who’s going to do that. The competition between us two has been intense so I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like when we get out there Saturday.” 

There are plenty of similarities between the two. 

- Russell is listed at 6-foot-2, 236 pounds. Bradley is listed at 6-foot-1, 235 pounds. 

- Both feel like they have gotten bigger, stronger and faster over the last couple of months. 

- Both are from New Jersey (Bradley from Mount Holly, Russell from Lakewood). Both became huge parts of Temple’s defense and were awarded single-digit numbers (Bradley got 5, Russell got 3) — an honor for the nine toughest Owls on the roster — in 2018. 

- Both put up big numbers in 2019. Bradley led the Owls with 86 tackles and Russell was second with 72. Bradley had 8 tackles for loss; Russell had 8 1/2. 

- And both feel like they have plenty to prove this week. 

While there are some big-name linebacker prospects in Indianapolis this week, the two Temple linebackers aren’t considered to be in that class. During their interview sessions on Thursday, while the big-name players spoke at podiums, Russell, Bradley and the less highly regarded prospects were crammed in the corner of the room at little round tables. 

“I think we’re going to open a lot of eyes,” Russell said. “…  I feel like when we go out there Saturday, we’re going to prove a lot of people wrong.”

Bradley and Russell both said the Eagles were one of the first teams to meet with them this week and each would love the opportunity to stay in Philly and continue to play home games at Lincoln Financial Field. It’s something the Eagles brought up to them in their respective interviews. 

Continuing their football careers in Philly would mean a lot to both men. For Bradley, it would allow him to stay close to home, where his family — including his four siblings, all 13 or younger — would be able to watch him play. 

Bradley joked the one problem he might have if he became an Eagle is remembering to go to the Birds’ locker room at the Linc and not to the Owls’ locker room farther down the hallway.  

But each guy basically said the same thing about the Eagles. 

“If Philly wanted to draft me, I’d be all for it,” Russell said. 

In recent months, Bradley and Russell have been in contact with several former Temple players who have already been through this pre-draft process. Since 2016, there have been 11 Owls drafted — 1 in the first, 2 in the second, 1 in the fourth, 3 in the fifth, one in the sixth and three in the 7th. 

A good showing from either Bradley or Russell on Saturday would go a long way in adding one of them to that list. 

Oh yeah, and one of them will earn those bragging rights too. 

“I’m pretty sure it’s going to be me,” Russell said. “But that’s the competition between me and him. He’ll say him, and I’ll say me.”

We’ll find out soon enough. 

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