PHILADELPHIA - Confidence is a big part of professional sports and doubt can creep into the minds of the most successful players.
Eagles rookie head coach Nick Sirianni joked that his kicker, Jake Elliott, was great at everything back in the spring, an absolute shark who excels in golf, basketball, and baseball. Even ping-pong. If you want to lose some money quickly put it down on the table and challenge Philadelphia's 26-year-old placekicker.
That's why it's almost inconceivable that the one thing Elliott chose as his actual profession gave him some problems last season.
The yips might be too strong of a descriptor for the Memphis product in 2020 but the big leg in the little body struggled with some of his shorter kicks.
In the end, perhaps Elliott was just a microcosm of the Eagles as a whole, an underachieving bunch that handled the pandemic poorly and won just four games.
Pre-2020 Elliott made 84 percent of his kicks, including the storied 61-yard game-winner against the New York Giants, a moment many believe really kicked off Philadelphia's run to a Super Bowl LII championship.
Last season, Elliott was underwater for an NFL kicker, making 73.7 percent of his FG tries and missing two under 30-yard attempts. Add in two failed extra points and Elliott missed four kicks he typically makes in his sleep.
“Confidence is a huge part of being a kicker,” Elliott said following Friday's third practice of training camp. “When things aren’t going that well, you sort of lose that a little bit. It was a battle all last year, just trying to climb back up and find that [consistency] all year."
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Now Elliott is facing a change in the battery that had been together since he arrived in Philadelphia.
His holder, punter Cam Johnston, signed a big-money deal in Houston and the Eagles are planning on moving forward with the untested Arryn Siposs, like Johnston, an Aussie trying to reach the highest level of pro football.
Elliott spent much of his downtime looking for football fields to use so he, Siposs, and long snapper Rick Lovato could develop the chemistry needed for the consistency new special teams coach Michael Clay will want.
“It’s tough in the offseason,” Elliott said. “We went to Penn and Temple and some local high schools that were in [New] Jersey. It kind of just depends, we’re working on each other’s schedule. We take some breaks here and there, but we started getting together, especially closer to camp maybe three, four times a week.”
When he was by himself Elliott worked with his personal kicking tutors: Jamie Kohl, a kicking specialist who has many NFL clients led by Kansas City's Harrison Butker, and Chris Nendick, a former Northern Illinois kicker.
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Also in the mix is Clay's assistant, Tyler Brown, who happens to be the son of Baltimore special teams coach Randy Brown, the long-time tutor of perhaps the best kicker in the NFL, the Ravens' Justin Tucker.
“I kind of got their eyes on me," Elliott said of the coaching. "We worked together, found out what I liked, what they liked. Shortened steps up just a little bit. I’m getting really technical here. I found some things I liked, I found a really good rhythm and I’m hitting the ball well.”
Clay isn't concerned.
"You can go throughout the history [of the NFL], everyone has a bad year,” said Clay. “Jake is still a very, very good kicker in this league and just being around him, he’s got a live leg. He’s able to hit a lot of plus-50 balls, but we’re really consistently hitting the 49 and under is where we want to make our money at.
“Jake’s been, over his career, has been really good at it. Obviously, you guys have seen it before. So, it’s just really getting him back to where he knows he can be at more than anything else.”
John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both PhillyVoice.com and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.