Wild Card Round Comparisons: Special Teams

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By Paul Bowman, Sports Talk Philly Editor

Leading up to the Eagles matchup with the Chicago Bears on Sunday, Sports Talk Philly and Eagledelphia will compare the personnel of the two teams each day until gameday is here.

In this edition of our week-long comparison we will look at the special teamers that the Bears and Eagles will field on Sunday.


Chicago ST | Cody Parkey, Pat O’Donell, Tarik Cohen

Former Eagles kicker Cody Parkey is the kicker for the Bears and let’s just say it was a good thing the Eagles moved on. Despite making the Pro Bowl and All-Rookie team in 2014, the kicker has missed three of his 45 extra points and seven of his 30 field goal attempts. That puts him at 93.3% for extra point conversions and 76.7% for field goal attempts. His long this season was a 50-yard attempt. He has been missing by just a bit, however, as in week 10, he hit the goal post on two separate field goal attempts as well as two extra point tries. Over the past four weeks, he has missed two field goals and an extra point.

O’Donnell handles the punts for the Bears. A sixth-round draft pick, O’Donnell has punted 62 times this season and averages 45 yards per punt with seven touchbacks and 28 punts within the 20-yarrd line. While his season long is 65, he averages just a bit over 40 yards in the 10 punts he has had against the Eagles over the past two seasons.

Speedster Tarik Cohen handles the majority of returning duties in addition to being the Bears biggest threat by providing an option to run or catch the ball on offense. He has had 35 returns this season and gained 433 yards on those returns. That’s 12.3 yards per return. Although he has not registered a return touchdown this season, Cohen was selected to the AP All-Pro team as the punt


Philadelphia ST | Jake Elliot, Cameron Johnston, Darren Sproles

Jake Elliot, a fifth-round pick of the Bengals last season, has been a good acquisition since replacing Caleb Sturgis due to Sturgis’ injury last season. Elliot started out on shaky ground, converting only 11 of 15 attempts (73.3%) through the first seven weeks of the season. He has since converted 15 of 16 to earn a season completion percentage of 83.9% – exactly where he was in the 2017 regular season. His season long is 56-yards out, but it should also be noted that three of his five misses have been from more than 50 yards out, so it isn’t like Elliot has been missing a lot of chip shots. He also kicked the field goal that secured the win in the second Giants game this season. Elliot has missed two of his 35 extra points. At 94.3%, that isn’t bad and is better than his 2017 mark, but one of those misses came against the Cowboys in a game that the Birds lost in overtime; an extra point could have been the difference.

Cameron Johnston, a rookie, has been quite the find as he has earned an average of 48.1 yards per punt. He has punted 61 times this season with seven touchbacks and 24 punts placed within the 20-yard line. He is able to give the team time to get downfield on punts, too. When his punts are returned, opponents have the sixth-worst average per return with just 6.3 yards per return.

Sproles has been selected to the Pro Bowl and All-Pro teams in three different seasons as a return man. He is currently sixth on the All-Time All-Purpose yardage leaderboard and is just 162 yards behind Tim Brown for fifth. A large part of his positioning on that list is his ability to create huge returns. Over his career, he has registered nine return touchdowns. While he is averaging just 8.3 yards per punt return this season, he has not gotten many chances due to the 11 games he missed with injury as he has returned only 10 punts this season.


Edge

While Johnston has less punts placed inside the 20-yard line, the fact that he has the same number of touchbacks with a larger average points to the fact that Johnston has needed to flip a longer field than O’Donnell. That said, O’Donnell had four extra punts that he may have taken some power off of to make sure they were not touchbacks on just one additional punt. Neither can be placed over the other.

Cohen is an All-Pro returner for a reason, but Sproles has proven over the last few weeks that he is just effective as he has been in the past. While Sproles has a limited sample this season, he is just as good as Cohen has been this season as long as he remains healthy, resulting in another tie.

With two ties, the battle comes down to the kickers and Elliot is the obvious winner there. He has performed better than Parkey has this season and has done much better in the second half of the season than his Bears counterpart. Elliot winning that battle gives the special teams advantage to the Eagles.

  QB RB WR/TE OL DL/LB DB ST
Eagles
Bears