Dave Fipp Downplays Concern with Jake Elliott
PHILADELPHIA - Jake Elliott isn't Justin Tucker, Baltimore's five-time All-Pro who quite frankly is the best placekicker in NFL history.
Tucker is just different and the football jumps off his foot en route to almost surgical precision when it comes to splitting the uprights. Generally, Arena League dimensions are more than Tucker needs, never mind NFL-sized goal posts.
The point there is this is not the week to lament Elliott, 25, because he's not Tucker. It is, however, fair to put out that the Eagles kicker has been struggling in the realm of 50-plus, once a rarity in this league, and now commonplace by a litany of kickers who have the leg strength to make what once were record-level kicks somewhat normalized.
Elliott was criticized by some for a 57-yard razor-thin miss at Pittsburgh that would have been the longest FG ever at the always tricky Heinz Field. A successful kick would've given the Eagles a lead with just over three minutes to play in the game.
Last week against Baltimore it was a 52-yarder just before halftime that was magnified further by the final score, 30-28 in Baltimore's favor.
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Elliott, of course, burst onto the scene in Philadelphia during the 2017 Super Bowl season by making five-of-six from 50-plus, including the franchise record 61-yard game-winner against Thursday night's opponent, the New York Giants. Some even point to that improbable kick as the jump-start toward the Lombardi Trophy.
Since that rookie season, where Elliott was signed off the Cincinnati practice squad to replace injured Caleb Sturgis, the University of Memphis product had made just 5-of-13 from long range.
In 2020, Elliott is 1-of-4 from 50-plus with the other miss coming in the season-opener against the Washington Football Team and the lone make, a 54-yarder coming at San Francisco. Elliott is a perfect 6-of-6 on anything under 52 yards.
“I’m not concerned at all with Jake,” said special teams coordinator Dave Fipp earlier this week. “You can paint any picture you want. Obviously, this year he hasn’t connected on as many as we’d like to connect on from that 50-yard range. He’s 100 percent from all his kicks underneath 52 yards. I think there’s a lot of guys that would like to be there right now."
Fipp also explained that Elliott remains an above-average kicker when it comes to the long-range stuff.
"What I look at is more globally," said Fipp. "When you go back in time and look at his numbers overall, his kicks of 53 yards or less or 50 to 53 yards, I think he’s hitting at about 60-plus percent on those kicks right there. I think last year the league average in that area was around the 58s or something like that."
The disconnect seems to be the sample size and the glass-is-half-full vs. half-empty argument. If you want to include 2017, Elliott is still top-half and if you don't, he's not, in fact, he's bottom of the barrel.
Since the start of the 2018 season, Elliott is dead last among the 16 kickers still active who've been given more than 10 opportunities to attempt from long distance. Over half of those 16 -- nine in total -- have clocked in at over 60 percent and Elliott is languishing at 38.5%.
“I’m certainly not trying to make excuses up here, so don’t take that the wrong way, but I am saying there are a lot of factors and variables that go into (making long FGs),” Fipp said. “When I look at his overall numbers, I don’t think he’s far off average, maybe a little bit above average for where he’s at in his career, in his development.
"I think he’s in a really good spot. I think the trajectory will go up. He’s obviously suffered a little bit of a down year on those longer kicks right now. So far this year, he’s obviously at 25 percent. But I think as the future goes, he’ll only get better. I think this year that number will improve. I think the more kicks that we have, the better that will get.”
To date, it's been a give-and-take with Elliott. When he was connecting from long distance with regularity his intermediate kicking was far more inconsistent. Now that the percentage has sunk from downtown the more "makeable" kicks have gotten far more consistent.
Elliott has also generally performed in the biggest moments with seven game-winning FGs, including the 61-yarder against the NYG.
“I will just tell you emphatically that I feel great about the guy as a player,” Fipp said. “You can hold me accountable to that when we look back in history at him. ... I think he’s really good and he’s going to end up having a good year for us."
John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every Monday and Friday on SIRIUSXM and every Monday and Thursday with Eytan Shander on SportsMap Radio. He’s also the host of Extending the Play on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
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