SPECIAL Teams has really fallen off here in Philadelphia over these last couple years. Some of it is player loss. Some of it is rule changes. Regardless, something needs to be done to make this unit’s presence felt again.
I still have faith in Special Teams Coordinator Dave Fipp. However, over the years he’s lost some key coverage specialists (LB Bryan Braman, S Chris Maragos, TE Trey Burton),
and has either missed out on the availability of our primary return specialist (2017, 2018 PR Darren Sproles) with injury, or lost them completely (2015 KR Josh Huff, 2018 KR Kenjon Barner).
A major part of the problem has been trying to give the Punt Returner job to one guy, and the Kickoff Returner job to one guy. When that player gets hurt (or cut for driving through Jersey with hollow-points and weed in his car), then other players get pressed into the duty. At that point the fill-ins are never as good.
Also with the new kickoff rules, KR’s are encouraged to take touchbacks rather than try to make something happen. How does the Offense begin an aggressive drive with kneeling? It’s psychologically counter-intuitive. Where is the spirit of competition?
It’s that very problem which gives rise to my solution. These jobs need to be split. Two PR’s and two KR’s.
BOOM! Right away the competition comes back. While I could end this article right there, and claim Supreme Victory, I have an even better idea…
To make things sweeter, Starters on the team could put money into a pot (maybe each Starter puts in 300$ per week, for a weekly pot of 6,600$, which can roll over.) When a returner breaks one for a touchdown, they get the whole pot. If a coverage guy forces a fumble, he splits the pot with whomever recovers the fumble. If more than one of these things happen in a game, then all of those players split the pot.
The coaches could give Special Teamers who commit no penalties, or who down balls inside the 5, an extra day off during the week. Holds and blocks in the back, would practically disappear. Near fanatical hustle would be evident on every play. From every player!
All throughout each aspect of Special Teams there would be improvement. Players would be competing with each other, and playing for short-term bragging rights. (After all, these weekly pots wouldn’t really make that big of difference to these guys financially.)
Our Special Teams is merely fine today. However, if we adopt and and adapt the Seahawks practice of encouraging competition among teammates, we will be ensuring ourselves of a unit that pushes themselves, and also each other. When teammates do that, excellence is sure to follow.