Eagles Sport Top-Ranked Special Teams in NFC East
Allen's first special teams coach, Dick Vermeil, turned the moribund Philadelphia Eagles into a playoff team in his second season and a Super Bowl contestant in his fourth. The most prolific return man in NFL history, Brian Mitchell, played his entire 14-year career in the NFC East with the Redskins, Eagles and New York Giants, missing only Dallas.
And the NFC East's track record on special teams isn't just history. No NFC division has more seniority among its special teams coaches than Philadelphia's Bobby April (20th season working with the position group), Dallas' Joe DeCamillis (18th) and Washington's Danny Smith (12th).
So who has the NFC East's best special teams?
Dallas boasts the best punter in Mat McBriar, but a neophyte kicker in David Buehler. New York starts a rookie punter, Matt Dodge, but the second-most experienced kicker, Lawrence Tynes. Washington sports the most experienced punter, Josh Bidwell, but kicker Graham Gano has all of four games on his resume. Philadelphia owns the top kicker, David Akers, and a solid punter, Sav Rocca.
The Eagles also have the only Pro Bowl snapper in the division, Jon Dorenbos, as well as DeSean Jackson, who led the league with a 15.2-yard punt return average in 2009. The Cowboys' Patrick Crayton (12.1) was third and helped his squad tie for the lead with two touchdowns on punt returns, though they'll replace him after the trade with San Diego. However, the four teams all ranked in the bottom half in kickoff returns, causing the Redskins and Giants to change their leading man in that speciality.
And when it comes to covering kickoffs and punts, the Redskins were not only tops in the division last season, they were the best in the entire NFC. Of course, no units change more from year to year than these. Washington, unlike its three NFC East rivals, has undergone a coaching shakeup so it's hard to predict how this will unfold this season, other than to note that Smith's coverage units are consistently excellent.
Given all that, the Eagles (best kicker, punt returner, snapper) get the nod for the division's top special teams unit with the Redskins (kickoff and punt coverage) edging the Cowboys (punter and kickoff returner) for second and the Giants bringing up the rear.