Philadelphia Eagles News

Camp Countdown: Specialists

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When deciding which team has an edge going into each contest, every aspect of the game is analyzed. Often, it is the special teams that can put one team over the top and determine whether they are among the elite, the average or the abysmal.

The word that you most often here when discussing special teams is consistency. For the Eagles to make the jump back to the top tier of the NFL then David Akers, Sav Rocca and Jon Dorenbos will have to be as steady as ever.

Akers was 2-of-10 in field goal attempts from beyond 39 yards last season. The eight misses were a career high. His 75 percent accuracy was below his career average of nearly 81 percent; however, special teams coordinator Rory Segrest pointed out that the kicker's average miss was actually somewhere in the neighborhood of 48 yards.

"Working with Sav (Rocca) and Jon Dorenbos, we're just trying to get more and more consistent so we can make more kicks," Akers said of his routine between now and the start of the season. "Anytime you miss, you want to eliminate that, find out what you did wrong, and make sure that it doesn't happen again if at all possible."

That mindset has allowed Akers to become the Eagles' all-time leading scorer with 897 points and rank first in field goals made with 197.

With a year under their collective belt, the field goal trio of Akers, Rocca (the holder) and Dorenbos (the long snapper) are working on the overall consistency of their operation.

Rocca had some shaky moments during his first full-time year as an NFL punter, but by and large he was just fine. The numbers - 42-yard gross average and 34.5-yard net average - were in the middle of the pack in the NFC.

Rocca improved as his rookie NFL season matured and finished the year strong by dropping 10 punts inside the 20-yard line in the final five games of the regular season.

"Sav has come a long way," Segrest said. "We were out there and he hit a bad ball and then turned right around and hit a 65-yard punt. He didn't quite understand how to make those corrections (last year). He didn't really trust in his techniques thoroughly. This year, he hit the bad ball, he turned around, he knew what he did wrong, and then he hit a good ball. I think that's the thing we're going to see this year. He knows how to make those corrections and I think he'll get them made."

Richmond McGee is here mainly as a training camp and preseason fill-in so that Akers and Rocca don't wear out their legs before the season even starts. But if McGee performs well he may find a home somewhere, especially if someone suffers an injury. His ability to kick field goals and punt allows the Eagles fill two positions with one player and bring another body into camp.

JUST A YEAR AGO ...

This time last year very few people outside of Australia knew who Sav Rocca was, but he went into training camp and beat out Dirk Johnson for the punting job. He struggled at first in his duties as Akers' holder but by the end of the season everyone from special teams coach Rory Segrest to Rocca himself said they felt more confident in his abilities.

"He had never held before, he had never played football before, so every day was a new learning experience for Sav," Akers said. "But as the season progressed I think you saw his punting consistency increase. The same thing is happening with him holding the ball."

BATTLE TO WATCH: Sav Rocca vs. Richmond McGee

McGee handled punting duties for the University of Texas' national championship team in 2005. The Eagles were happy with the way that Rocca progressed throughout the year, but would love to see him tested here in training camp.

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