One of the biggest problems from last week’s disappointing 33-26 loss was the miscues on special teams. The Philadelphia Eagles saw one punt blocked, fell victim to a fake punt, and missed an extra point on a botched snap. It was a failure in the third phase.
The Eagles lost punter Cameron Johnston in the third quarter with a head injury and he never returned. That left two voids on special teams: one in the holder’s role on kicks and another on actual punts. Well, Johnston is still going through the NFL’s concussion protocol and there’s a good chance he’ll be sidelined on Sunday.
Tight end Zach Ertz took over as the holder for field goals and extra points. Kicker Jake Elliott filled in as the punter — he averaged 38.5 yards on two punts — and may be forced to do it again in Week 16. And they may go for more two-point conversions.
“We obviously have a plan you know, in case Cam doesn’t make it,” head coach Doug Pederson told reporters on Wednesday. “You saw in the game the other day. I thought Jake came in and did a really nice job being able to handle the punt situations. I think where it really pertains maybe a little bit more is your extra points and things like that. Maybe you go for two a time or two more.”
#Eagles botch the PAT after tying the #AZCardinals 26-26 off a 7-yard touchdown run from Jalen Hurts.
Philly punter/holder Cameron Johnston (head) was downgraded to out and TE Zach Ertz was in to hold. Low snap was not corralled. pic.twitter.com/OjzJ07R7ps
— Mason Kern (@MasonKernMedia) December 20, 2020
Johnston didn’t participate in Wednesday’s practice, but the Aussie has three more days to clear the protocol. Meanwhile, the Eagles brought in free-agent punter Matt Wile for a workout as an insurance policy.
Wile Converted From Kicker to Punter in College
Wile has bounced around between seven different NFL teams since 2015. His most recent stop was in Detroit where he inked a futures contract with the Lions last December. Prior to that, the 28-year-old spent time with the Atlanta Falcons (twice), Minnesota Vikings, Pittsburgh Steelers, Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys. He has seen action in 22 NFL games and brings valuable experience: 90 punts for 4,098 yards (45.5-yard average), with two blocked punts on his resume.
#Vikings punter Matt Wile is currently averaging 4.82 seconds of hangtime, which would rank best in the NFL in any of the past five years.
Seven of his 11 punts were downed inside the 20; four landed inside the ten. Another was a perfect sideline directional punt. Kid’s good. pic.twitter.com/KdnLnvVHKX
— Nick Olson (@NickOlsonNFL) September 20, 2018
Originally signed by Carolina as an undrafted rookie, Wiles appeared in 52 contests at Michigan as both a kicker and punter. He made 20-of-29 career field goals while averaging 39 yards on 65 punts. His longest field goal was 52 yards and he put 29 punts inside the 20-yard line. He was initially recruited by the Wolverines as a kicker before jumping in at punter due to injury.
5 Players Miss Eagles Practice on Wednesday
The Eagles saw five total players miss practice on Wednesday, including cornerback Kevon Seymour (knee) and defensive end Josh Sweat (wrist). Pederson ruled Sweat out earlier in the day during his media availability. Those extra snaps will likely go to Genard Avery and Vinny Curry as the third edge rushers.
Wednesday Injury Report pic.twitter.com/t3W0A6eC2f
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) December 23, 2020
On a more positive note, shutdown cornerback Darius Slay (concussion) was cleared to suit up on Sunday. He’ll be back on the outside locking down the other team’s top target. Rookie receiver Jalen Reagor (ankle) was a limited participant on Wednesday but Pederson said he’s good to go. Linebacker Duke Riley (bicep) was also limited.