The third phase of football is one that's often overlooked, but can be the difference-maker in a close game. Eagles safety and special teams ace Chris Maragos joined Fran Duffy on this week's Eagle Eye in the Sky podcast to discuss the true strategy behind these plays and explain why they are so important to the sport.
"I think so many people think about just running down the field on a kickoff and everybody just running down with fire in their hair and just running to wherever the ball goes," Maragos said. "I think that's the biggest misconception, that it's kind of a free-for-all play. There are so many set things, things that guys are executing, a lot of techniques and I think a lot of that stuff kind of gets overlooked a lot of times."
According to Maragos, it takes a specific type of player to become a special teams standout and most importantly, it takes the desire to win. These plays are usually one-on-one battles, which more times than not are won by the more determined individual.
Last season, the safety's biggest play came against New England when he successfully blocked a punt that teammate Najee Goode was able to scoop up and return for a touchdown. Those are the type of contributions Maragos looks to make every time he steps on the field.
"You know that I'm not going to be denied, that I'm going to have the will and the desire to go out there and to execute and to make sure that you can't beat me," Maragos said. "At the end of the day, that trumps all things in my opinion.
"Once I get a good feel for what I think might be happening, then it's just going out there playing fast and reacting. It's really the ultimate play of what a football player is. You need to have speed. You need to have intelligence. You need to have smarts. You need to have instincts. You need to be able to tackle in space. You need to do all these things that are really difficult all at one time and it just really culminates what a football player should be."
This week's edition of the Eagles Live podcast featured Dave Spadaro getting some in-depth notes on the Eagles' offense from two of the people who know it best - offensive coordinator Frank Reich and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo.
Reich is part of a new coaching staff that has come together quickly and begun to implement the Eagles' offensive attack for the 2016 season. While it's still very early in the football year, Reich, a former quarterback with 14 years of NFL experience, likes what he's seen from the Eagles to this point.
"The 'no pads' thing, that's always the little asterisk. You hate the fact that you can't have pads on, but you've got to still find ways to improve and I think we've done that," Reich said. "(You're looking to see) how the players can master all of the material. All of the installs are in now, so it's a lot of information. At the beginning of OTAs, it's small, bite-sized. Now it's how can they handle it, who can handle it and how can we still execute the offense. There's been a lot of good stuff, but we've got a long way to go."
The spotlight remains bright on the Eagles' quarterback position, of course, and Reich was quick to give praise to each of the three players the Eagles currently have inside the quarterback room.
"It's awesome. It's a great group," Reich said. "They're so much fun to work with. It's a great room. Great camaraderie in the room. They challenge each other, work hard and learn from each other. It's a really unique dynamic. You have three really good football players and they're all really good people. We all obviously want the same thing, and that's to build a championship team, so obviously the quarterback position is very important and we're fortunate to have those three guys.
"Sam (Bradford)'s the clear number one and he's looked great. He's looked phenomenal. He's such a talented passer and he's smart, he's adapted to the offense. Chase (Daniel) has more than held his own and really had looked good and has complete control of the offense, and Carson (Wentz) is Carson. He's been everything and more that he would be at this point and he still has room to grow and that's what we have to push for."