Philadelphia Eagles face potential crises with kicking game, secondary

The (Allentown) Morning Call (TNS)
Philadelphia Eagles place kicker Jake Elliott (4) kicks the field goal with punter Cameron Johnston (1) spotting during the NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

In the weekly news conferences of Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and special teams coordinator Dave Fipp on Tuesday, the team's two most troubling crises were addressed: A depleted secondary and a crisis of confidence with kicker Jake Elliott.

In Sunday’s 24-21 win over New Orleans, Elliott missed a 22-yard field goal as part of his ongoing struggles to master even the simplest of tasks.

The Eagles on Sunday lost starting cornerbacks Darius Slay (concussion) and Avonte Maddox (knee) indefinitely and saw starting safety Rodney McLeod suffer a torn anterior cruciate ligament, ending his season.

Many of their key backups, including Cre’Von LeBlanc and Craig James, already were out with injuries.

This forced newly acquired Kevon Seymour and rookie K’Von Wallace into action during a late comeback that nearly delivered the Saints a victory.

“It’s certainly not an ideal situation,” Schwartz admitted. "But injuries happen in the NFL, particularly at defensive back. Not only are there muscle pulls but they are generally smaller guys that take a lot of contact and things like that. So we’ve seen that firsthand.

“I think the biggest thing is you have to balance your game plan versus the skill set of the guys that you have. Every player has strengths. Every player has weaknesses. Whether you’re up from the practice squad or you’re a six-time Pro Bowl player, every player has strengths and weaknesses, and you have to balance what you need to do in the game plan versus what your match-ups are and what the skill set of the players are.”

This will be the biggest challenge for Schwartz during these last three games, starting with Sunday’s road contest against the Arizona Cardinals.

“I think just in the previous game, the game plan was to play a lot of zone, trying to keep as much vision on the quarterback as we could,” he said, “so that translated pretty well to when we had to replace both corners and both safeties and the only guy that was really playing in the same position most of the second half was [ Nickell Robey-Coleman], who was playing the nickel, who I thought really played a good game for us.

“I think that every week is a little bit different depending on what the game plan is and as you adjust in the game, but I think you need to balance both of them. I think those guys really did a good job of stepping in and helping us win that game. It wasn’t always easy for them. Gave up a couple plays, but when it was all said and done, they made enough plays to win the game.”

Fipp is nearly as flummoxed as Elliott.

“He’s obviously made a bunch of longer kicks, so some of it’s hard to fathom,” Fipp said. “But at the end of the day, I’m not going to get into all the techniques in detail. At the end of the day, it comes down to just striking the ball more consistently, and we’ve got to get him in a little bit better rhythm and make sure he’s striking the ball a little bit more consistently there.

“I think just like any player in times like this, you go back to fundamentals and your routine and your process and you stay the course. He’s a talented player, he’s got a lot of con ... I mean he’s got a lot of tools ... he works really hard at it, it’s really important to them, it’s not a lack of effort ... So we’ll just stay the course.

“I think any player in that position in this league or most players in that position in this league have had to fight through something. This will be a good opportunity for him to fight through a little adversity here. He’s been a really consistent player for us the last handful of years. And so I look forward to the opportunity to get him back on track here.”