Eagles special teams coordinator explains how his unit pulled off a remarkable turnaround in Week 13
Through 12 weeks of the 2022 NFL season, the Philadelphia Eagles had one of the worst special teams units in the entire league.
From surrendering first downs on fake punts to giving opposing teams great field position on kickoffs, Michael Clay’s group was one of the lone question marks surrounding this juggernaut.
Then Week 13 rolled around, and somehow, everything changed.
For the first time all season, the Eagles’ special teams unit came alive. Britain Covey ripped off three punt returns of 20 yards or more. The coverage teams laid the wood on returners all day. And above all else, they helped the team bring home the W.
When asked about his unit’s remarkable turnaround on Sunday, Clay wasn’t afraid to give his guys some deserved praise.
“This team, this (special teams) group, they’re very prideful,” Clay said. “Anytime you put (out) a performance (like) Green Bay, no one is going to be happy about that, but they came in Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, ready to be a contributing factor for this. I’m just really proud of those guys going out there and the energy and the passion they had to go out there to help the team was outstanding.”
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There were reports leading up to Sunday’s contest against Tennessee that suggested Clay’s unit was about to undergo some major changes. The Eagles didn’t do anything out of the ordinary on special teams Sunday. Their guys just showed up did their jobs. Sometimes, that’s all it takes.
Heading into Week 13, Pro Football Focus ranked the Eagles special teams unit as the worst in the NFL. After Sunday, they now rank 29th. Nothing to write home about just yet, but seeing progress, no matter how small, is still a good sign.
One guy that really stood out on special teams this past weekend was linebacker Christian Ellis, who logged 21 special teams snaps and tallied two solo tackles, including one bone-crunching hit early on in the game.
“Being on the practice squad you can get kind of lost in the shuffle, you may not take it seriously in terms of, ‘I probably won’t get called up,'” Clay said when speaking about Ellis’ play. “But Christian comes in every day and he gives maximum effort, regardless of what he’s doing, whether that’s scout team, whether that’s giving us a rush on punt, and when his number was called … he was ready to perform out there, and just some added boost, some big hits, some collisions out there, some good blocks on the punt return. Kudos to him just to be ready whenever his number is called.”
Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come for Clay’s group. Both sides of the ball have been excellent all season. If the special teams unit can continue playing the way they did on Sunday, you’ll be hard pressed to find a legitimate hole on this team.
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