While the Eagles offense took a half to get going in Sunday's season-opening victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars and the defense buckled down after allowing 14 early point, the Eagles special teams unit stood out all afternoon.
"I thought our special teams was obviously a little bit improved from where it was a year ago," head coach Chip Kelly said Monday afternoon.
One of the notable performances came from special teams expert Chris Maragos, who made one of the crucial special teams plays of the game.
After Darren Sproles' 49-yard rushing touchdown finally put the Eagles on the board early in the third quarter, Maragos outpaced the Jaguars' kick return coverage on the ensuing kickoff. He reached return man Jordan Todman before anybody else, blowing up the return at Jacksonville's own 14-yard-line and stirring up the Lincoln Financial Field crowd. The defense fed off that energy and went on a streak, forcing the Jaguars into three straight three-and-out series.
"I thought that Chris was a really good addition here in the offseason," Kelly said of his specialist. "He really takes a lot of pride in being a special teams player and stood out for us from that standpoint."
Kelly also said he was pleased with the way both of his kicking specialists, rookie place kicker Cody Parkey and veteran punter Donnie Jones, performed with consistency. Parkey displayed his powerful leg from the opening kickoff, which Jacksonville didn't have a chance to return as it bounced out of the end zone for a touchback.
"You had five touchbacks, and then the two kickoffs, one was taken to the 13, one was taken to the 14," Kelly said of Parkey's kickoff attempts. Parkey, of course, also nailed two field goals, including a 51-yard attempt to tie the game at 17 in the fourth quarter.
"Our punt team did a really good job," Kelly continued, complimenting Jones and the punt coverage team. "I think we had five punts downed inside the 20 yard line so obviously we did good work there."
One of those punts downed inside the 20-yard-line was pinned at the 1-yard-line by Brandon Boykin in the first half. Boykin rushed down to receive the punt and dropped it at the final marker before his momentum carried him into the end zone.
Kelly also said he loved the way Darren Sproles gave the punt return team a spark. Sproles returned four kicks for 62 yards against the Jaguars Sunday, including a 22-yard return.
"We excelled I think in the punt return, obviously having Darren [Sproles] back there," Kelly explained. "But not only having Darren back there, I thought we blocked it a little better too."