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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A glaring weakness for the Philadelphia Eagles last season, special teams looks to be a strength under Chip Kelly.
Sure, it’s a small sampling. But the Eagles have to start somewhere.
Under Kelly, and his first-year assistant special teams coach Dave Fipp, Philadelphia set a standard vs. Washington in the season opener. Punter Donnie Jones, signed as a free agent in the offseason, had four of his six punts downed inside the 20, and three inside the 10. The Eagles also held the Redskins to an 18.7-yard kickoff return average, and only two of the Redskins’ 13 possessions began beyond their 21.
“The best thing they did was they all played together,” Fipp said, referring to Monday’s 33-26 win. “We had 11 guys playing together as one, from the kicker, the punter to the gunners, everyone. When you have team coverage, good things happen.”
Philadelphia (1-0) plays host to San Diego (0-1) on Sunday.
“I thought our guys did a great job,” Fipp said. “We talk a lot about where we’re supposed to be, how we’re supposed to fit, how we work together. And they all were in the right spots.”
Fipp came to the Eagles after a long college coaching career and then stops in San Francisco (2008-10) and Miami (2011-12). He was tasked with helping units that contributed to a 4-12, last-place season a year ago in Philadelphia.
“We got a phenomenal effort out of our players,” he said. “They’ve bought into everything we’ve ever asked them to do.”
The feeling is mutual.
“That was a real good first game for us,” safety Colt Anderson, the Eagles special teams MVP the past two years, said. “It was good to get an effort like that in the first game. We did a lot of good things, but we’re never satisfied.
“We just want to take what we did out there and continue to build on it.”
It wasn’t that long ago that the Eagles were among the best special teams in the league. From 2000-2005, Philadelphia ranked in the top five in the league. Back then, they were under the direction of John Harbaugh, who is now the Baltimore Ravens coach.
“I know the tradition that special teams have with the Philadelphia Eagles,” Fipp said. “We would like to continue that.”
Kelly, an advocate of special teams, will oversee the transformation. He has devoted practice time specifically to special teams since training camp, and has spent personal time with the returners.
The Eagles have also used more starters on special teams than most others in the NFL. On Monday, safeties Patrick Chung and Nate Allen, cornerback Cary Williams and linebacker Brandon Graham were mainstays in coverage.
“Everybody’s got a role on special teams and the guys do a great job embracing that when we ask,” Fipp said. “They all give us everything they’ve got. The bottom line for us is that we’re going to play our best 11 guys, whoever they are.”
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