Here's a quick look at the Eagles special teams as the bye week winds down here in Philadelphia.
What They've Accomplished: This season, David Akers has been his usual consistent self, side from one afternoon against the Atlanta Falcons. For the first time in his career, Akers missed three field goals against Atlanta in what was a blip on an otherwise productive season for the Eagles kicker. In fact, the very next week in Tennessee, Akers connected on all four field goals he attempted, while tallying a career-high five touchbacks. Akers is 11 for 15 on field goals this season, and is a perfect 19 for 19 on extra points. Of course, the last time Akers missed an extra point that wasn't blocked was in 2000.
One of the biggest surprises on the team is punter Sav Rocca, who has outperformed the expectations set for him this season. Rocca finished 2009 with a 38.3 net punting average, good for 13th in the NFL, but is now 10th in the NFL in 2010 with a net average of 39.3 yards per punt. What's significantly more impressive is his gross punting average, or simply how far Rocca has punted the ball from the line of scrimmage. After grossing 42.4 yards per punt last year, Rocca has far surpassed that in 2010 with a gross average of 47.1 yards (4th in the NFL). Rocca has consistently helped the team with field position, and has worked the offense out of some tough jams deep in their own territory.
Special teams coordinator Bobby April is still waiting for his return game to get going. Ellis Hobbs has only averaged 23.7 yards per kickoff return, and rookie Jorrick Calvin has averaged 22.9 yards per return. It appears as though the job is Calvin's moving forward, and the rookie out of Troy has shown signs of potential, bringing a kickoff return back 41 yards against the Titans just last week. With DeSean Jackson battling back from a concussion, Calvin could also be the punt returner moving forward. Of course, a fumble late in the game against Tennessee was Calvin's lone mistake in that role, but a 44-yard return against Atlanta proves that he's up for the challenge. His 13.3 yards per punt return average is actually greater than Jackson's, who averaged 7.6 yards per return in ten opportunities.
April's coverage units have gotten much better in recent weeks. After a rough start, the Eagles have held opponents to an average starting field position of their own 21-yard-line the last two weeks. Of course, just three weeks ago, San Francisco's Ted Ginn Jr. averaged 36.3 yards per kick return and gained 181 yards returning on the day. It's still an area that needs improvement, but it's safe to say that the coverage units are beginning to come together.
What Lies Ahead: For April, the goal moving forward is consistency. All facets of the special teams have shown signs of greatness, but to have that success on each and every play takes discipline and hard work. We know one thing for sure; April expects nothing less.
-- Posted by Josh Goldman, 3:00 p.m., October 31