Philadelphia Eagles News

'Separation is in the preparation'

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On a busy day that included a series of roster moves that will immediately impact the Eagles as they prepare for Sunday's game against Chicago, the team launched right away into integrating some changes into the plans for Week 15. Special Teams Coordinator Michael Clay welcomes a new punter, Brett Kern, who will also handle the holder duties – thanks for the emergency fill-in work, Britain Covey – for Jake Elliott on field goal attempts and point-after kicks, and Defensive Coordinator Jonathan Gannon has to potentially make due for Sunday without Reed Blankenship at safety.

With that in mind, some of the storylines as all three coordinators met the media on Tuesday at the NovaCare Complex ...

Michael Clay: A new punter who has experience and a great career record

Kern is a three-time Pro Bowl selection and a two-time All-Pro, so there are no concerns that he will get up to speed quickly as an Eagle, with Arryn Siposs now on Injured Reserve after suffering an ankle injury in Sunday's win over the New York Giants. Clay certainly has that expectation.

"Brett has been a veteran punter for a long time, a really good punter for a long time in Tennessee," Clay said. "Very fortunate he was not on an active roster right now, so having Brett being a veteran guy who's also a very good holder out there, has been in some playoff games in terms of his career. You guys have seen his accolades; he's a very good punter, so very fortunate that he was just out there, and kudos to (Executive Vice President/General Manager) Howie (Roseman) and his staff being able to be quick on it and get him on board."

It was a busy, busy Sunday for the Eagles on special teams, one that included a breakout game by Boston Scott on kickoff returns. Scott averaged 39 yards on three returns, including one for 66 yards.

"It was very good to see these guys come in. They've been locked in over the last few weeks, and we threw a little wrinkle in, not necessarily changing a lot, just a little wrinkle in terms of our blocking track right there," Clay said. "ZP (wide receiver Zach Pascal) did a heck of a job cutting off the back side, and Boston hit it; he saw two-split-two and he was able to get to the outside right there, so it was really encouraging to see, helping the offense out with that shorter field.

"Then coming out the third one, it was just good individual blocks right there. (Cornerback) Josiah (Scott) had a really good block on 47, (Giants linebacker) Cam Brown, that kind of sprung Boston to the right side, and Boston hit it, got going right there, so encouraging stuff as we get going, and still building off our return game."

Take an exclusive look at moments from Sunday's game in the Meadowlands through team photographer Kiel Leggere's lens.

Jonathan Gannon: Depth being tested at safety

Reed Blankenship, replacing starting safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson, suffered a knee injury early in Sunday's game and left the game, replaced by K'Von Wallace. The Eagles aren't certain about Blankenship's availability for Chicago, but Gannon feels good about the situation, no matter who is out there.

The Eagles have been prepared for sudden change and a test of depth all season, so this week is no different.

"He played well," Gannon said of Wallace. "We've been talking all along, and K'Von always gets mentioned in that. He plays some high-leverage snaps for us when he comes in the game, and I expect K'Von to go in there and play well. He started however many games last year, I think three games, and played winning football for us. I feel very comfortable with K'Von going in, and I thought he did a good job. Anyone that has a jersey on gameday, there can't be a drop-off if we have injuries or nicks or whatever the case may be. They've got to be psychologically prepped to go in the game and execute at a high level, which I thought he did."

To make certain there is enough depth, the Eagles on Tuesday also signed Anthony Harris to the practice squad. Harris played for Minnesota from 2015 through 2020, was a starter for the Eagles in 2021, and then was released from the practice squad just prior to this regular season when the team traded for Gardner-Johnson. He spent a few weeks in Denver during the 2022 regular season, so Harris is sharp and ready if called upon.

And he has the Eagles' defensive system down pat, so if he is on the gameday roster on Sunday, Harris will be ready to contribute.

"I think we're bringing him in for some – obviously, if we're down a couple guys, he knows our system," Gannon said. "His football character is through the roof. We'll get him up to speed, see where he's at and get him going."

Shane Steichen: Consistency is the key

The Eagles have scored first-drive touchdowns in seven of their last eight games, and in an NFL-most eight games in all. They lead the league in scoring. They have turned the ball over only 10 times.

Everything is going fantastically well for the Eagles' offense. What is the focus, then?

"It's pretty fun," Offensive Coordinator Shane Steichen said. "When you're executing at a high level, right now, we've got to keep doing that, but the biggest thing is consistency. You get late into the season, you've got to be consistent with everything you do – coaches, players, everyone has got to be on the same page of communication because once you get late in the season, it's going to get harder and harder. We have to do a hell of a job of being consistent and being relentless in our approach."

Getting off to a fast start and putting points on the board have been huge and have, truly, changed the complexion of games. Playing with a lead is obviously always better than playing from behind, and the Eagles have done a great job of that this season.

The work, Steichen said, starts long before the opening kickoff.

"I think it's the preparation part. I say this every week, but I think it's big," Steichen said. "The preparation, I truly believe the separation is in the preparation every week, and the way we go about our business up in the meeting rooms and carrying it down to the players and trying to put our guys in position to make plays. Obviously, they have to go out and execute, which they've been doing, but it's the communication part and seeing what we're seeing on tape and trying to take advantage of those things."

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