By Vincent Quinn (@ItsVinceQuinn)
Chip Kelly is by no means a man of convention. He blares Tupac and drives RC cars at practices. He calls plays during games with pictures of Bart Simpson and Will Smith. He’s likely analyzed the pros and cons of eating his Snickers bar with a knife and fork too.
This year, however, Chip Kelly should make his biggest change yet–keep two kickers.
Yes, the idea is appalling at first. I understand that a kicker is generally considered to be a lesser form of football player—a disliked, but necessary runt of the litter. Why would the Eagles ever keep two?
First, you need to consider the quality of talent. Normally the best idea is to have one kicker because it leaves space for as many position players as possible. However, there are no kickers currently on the Eagles, or in free agency, who are good enough to kick field goals and touchbacks at a high enough percentage to help the team win.
Out of the 12 playoff teams last year, eight of them were in the top ten for opponent’s average starting field position. All eight of those teams were also in the top 11 point per game defenses. In comparison the Eagles were the 12th best starting line of scrimmage for opponents (26.8 yard line) and only 17th best point per game defense (23.9/g).
One way to greatly improve the Eagles opposing field position—and therefore, the points allowed per game—would be to generate more touchbacks. They won’t do that with Alex Henery. Henery converted only 41.5% of his kicks into touchbacks, which isn’t good. With kickoffs moved up to the 35 yard line a quality kicker should generate a touchback at least 50% of the time, if not more.
Carey “Murderleg” Spear is one such guy who can do that. Last season at Vanderbilt Murderleg generated a touchback on 46 of 66 attempts—good for 69% of his kicks. In fact, if Murderleg were in the NFL last season, he would have had the second best touchback rate in the league. Conversely, he’s not as accurate a field goal kicker as Alex Henery. Together they’re a respectable match.
The idea of having two kickers also makes more sense you when consider the team as a whole.
One way that Chip Kelly values players is versatility. Darren Sproles, James Casey, Connor Barwin—the man is obsessed with Swiss army knives. Consequently, the Eagles are loaded with players that can step in a play a number of positions. Roles are increasingly more fluid. Given that, the Eagles wouldn’t lose anything by adding a touchback specialist. They would actually gain value because the steady stream of touchbacks from game-to-game would be far more valuable than the output of a last-string special teamer.
So is keeping two kickers a little unorthodox? Sure, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
Vincent Quinn is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly, co-founder of The Wooder Cooler, and host of the Around The Cooler podcast.
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