Evaluating the Eagles' special teams

Dimitri Patterson was one of three Eagles with 11 special-teams tackles this season. (David Maialetti / Staff Photographer)

Just around this time last year, the Eagles brought in Bobby April to revamp their special teams.

The unit struggled early on, but improved later in the season. DeSean Jackson won a game on special teams against the Giants. And David Akers played a role in the Birds losing the playoff game against the Packers.

When the Birds make decisions on next year's roster (whenever that might be), special teams will play a role, as it always does.

Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders posted an article yesterday about the league's top special-teams tacklers on punt and kickoff returns. One Eagle was on his list: Moise Fokou.

The Eagles' starting strong-side linebacker had 15 special-teams tackles, tied for 17th in the NFL. Schatz also used a metric called Return Stops, which are defined as tackles that stopped the ballcarrier short of the average return. Fokou had nine of those.

Football Outsiders keeps a variety of special-teams stats. Overall, they had the Eagles' unit ranked 13th. Here's how the Eagles ranked in variety of categories:

Kickoff returns
Punt returns

As you can see, the Eagles were good in a few different areas. I'll do a year-in-review on Akers in the coming weeks, but the Eagles were 12th in the league in field-goal percentage (84.2 percent). They were third in field goals made (32), and Akers converted all 47 of his extra-point attempts.

The kickoff and punt coverage units ranked 7th and 6th, respectively. The Eagles keep their own stats for special-teams tackles. Here's a chart of who led them in that category:

Moise Fokou
Akeem Jordan
Kurt Coleman
Colt Anderson
Jamar Chaney
Keenan Clayton
Dimitri Patterson
Omar Gaither
Eldra Buckley

Four rookies are on that list: Coleman, Anderson, Chaney and Clayton. Anderson's 12 tackles are particularly impressive, considering he didn't join the team until Week 9.

The Eagles also track when a player is the first one downfield on coverage. Buckley led them there with six. Anderson had four; Fokou two; Gaither two; and Cooper, Owen Schmitt and Jorrick Calvin had one each.

In overall special-teams production points, the Eagles' coaching staff had Jordan first, Buckley second, Rocca third, Fokou fourth and Coleman fifth.

The return units were not good. Specifically, the kickoff return game was one of the worst in the league, ranking 30th. The Eagles had several different return men: Calvin, Ellis Hobbs, Chad Hall and Gerard Lawson, to name a few. Who will return kicks in 2011? That's another thing to keep an eye on as we look at what personnel moves the team makes this offseason.

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