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Michael Clay has Helped put "Special" Back in Special Teams Play

The first-year ST coordinator has helped his units block two kicks and Shaun Bradley has been standing out, but a strong bounceback year from Jake Elliott has helped, too
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Diontae Spencer probably thought he had some room to run.

The Denver Broncos punt returner took a few steps before Shaun Bradley caved in on him, thumping him hard to the ground.

“We were on the opposite sideline, but you could hear that hit,” said Eagles special teams coach Michael Clay on Tuesday afternoon. “And when you can hear a hit like that in an NFL stadium, it brings a certain amount of energy.”

Bradley’s 10 special teams tackle are tied for second-most in the NFL, but Clay’s special team units, as a whole, have been solid all season long.

They have been more helpful than hurtful, and that is something that couldn’t have been said last year, Dave Fipp’s final season in that job.

Once again, there was a blocked kick, the Eagles’ second of the season. K’Von Wallace blocked a 22-yard field goal try after the Broncos advanced to the Eagles’ 4-yard line on the opening possession of the third quarter.

Earlier this year, it was T.J. Edwards blocking a punt in Carolina that led directly to the Eagles’ game-winning touchdown. Edwards has not only come on as the starting Mike linebacker but Pro Football Focus has him with their fourth-highest grade among all NFL special teams players with a minimum of 100 snaps at 90.6.

MORE: Let's Get Physical: Eagles Go Old-School - Sports Illustrated

“It was a really good individual effort out of K'Von,” said Clay. “On the first one, their first PAT, he kind of squeaked in there. And it was something that we had seen on tape that we talked about as a group on Friday saying, ‘Hey, this may be an opportunity.’

“And the first one K'Von got through, didn't block it. He came off the sideline after and we went the other way the next time and he said, ‘Hey, give me another opportunity. I think I can get it.’”

Clay gave the same call later and Wallace was right. He got it.

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“We would have loved Alex [Singleton] to go back to his catching days from Little League baseball, but didn't get the scoop and score, but got the opportunity to get the points off it,” said Clay. “So, just a great individual effort from K’Von. But it's a whole, Friday seeing something; Derek (Barnett), Shaun, and Zech [McPhearson] rushing off the edge to give him that gap to get through.”

Isn’t that just like any good coach, always wanting more out of play no matter how good it is?

VIDEO: Clay praises Derek Barnett's special teams play:

It certainly helps, too, to have a good kicking operation, and long snapper Rick Lovato, punter Arryn Siposs, and kicker Jake Elliott have certainly been that.

“The one thing you can definitely tell between those three is, one, they like each other, which helps,” said Clay, “and they have fun during practice. We, obviously, have to get our job done, but they have a lot of fun doing it. And a lot of times in our room, especially, we like to give each other a hard time. But it kind of loosens them up.

"And they go out free-willing and, you know, all three of them have been performing at a high level. But especially Jake coming back from, you could say it was a down year, one of his lower field goal percentages.”

Elliott has already made both his field goals over 50 yards this season, including Sunday’s 52-yarder with five seconds to go in the first half and right after Quez Watkins dropped what would have been a 34-yard TD pass from Jalen Hurts.

Earlier this year, Elliott was good from 58 yards away in Carolina, which was the third-longest in team history. His 61-yarder in 2017 is the longest in franchise history.

Also, this season, Elliott has made all 25 PATs, after missing two last year, and he is 14-for-16 (87.5 percent). Last year, he was 14-for-19 (career-low 73.7 percent).

“His competitive edge, he wants to be great,” said Clay about Elliott. “Which is going to allow him, mentally, to take him to the next level. And I think he's having a really good year in terms of being within himself, staying within the basics what got him to the spot right here.”

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 or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.