September 8, 2023   3 MIN READ

Youth Movement

Younger Birds Hoping To Improve Special Teams


While some concerns linger on an largely restocked Eagles roster that’s primed for a deep postseason run, it’s the beleaguered special teams unit – a sore spot on an otherwise unblemished 2022 roster  – that’s undergone wholesale changes in personnel.

The modifications – in both continuity and experience – figure to come with typical growing pains, and perhaps starting Sunday when the Eagles open the season against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.

Gone are mainstays such as K’Von Wallace and Zach Pascal.

Kyron Johnson, who played nearly 60% of the snaps as a rookie, was also waived recently, though he remains on the practice squad.

Cornerback Zech McPhearson and linebacker Shaun Bradley – the unit’s most prominent contributors – are each shelved for the season with Achilles injuries.

With McPhearson, one of the league’s budding young gunners, on the mend, he’ll presumably be replaced by rookie cornerback Kelee Ringo opposite second-year cornerback Josh Jobe.

Christian Elliss

GETTY IMAGES: LB Christian Elliss will be tasked with helping Eagles special teams improve in 2023.

Linebacker Nakobe Dean, who finished second on the unit with 340 snaps a season ago, will also surely be relieved from his third phase duties, as the second-year linebacker has graduated into starting inside linebacker.

Instead, the team will rely on a new core of special teams performers, hoping to yield positive results for scrutinized coordinator Michael Clay, whose unit last season ranked 31st in the NFL, according to longtime special teams observer Rick Gosselin, formerly of the Dallas Morning News.

Coincidentally, only the Kansas City Chiefs, who beat the Eagles in the Super Bowl, finished with a worse special teams than the Eagles.

Aside from holdovers Patrick Johnson, Christian Elliss and Jobe, Clay will be tasked with molding a talented contingent of first- and second-year Eagles, including 2023 first-round pick Nolan Smith.

“Excited about these guys that are going out to handle some new roles and know that I feel like the team just continues to get better,” head coach Nick Sirianni said Friday in his final press conference before the Eagles’ Week 1 game. “I guess the real thing is I’m excited that they go out there and perform.

“I have a lot of confidence that we will, led by Coach Clay and then some of our special teams guys that we really want to count on, with Josh Jobe, with Christian Ellis, with Terrell Edmunds, a lot of different guys that are going to have a lot of important roles. Sydney Brown. So, excited for them to go out there and perform.”

– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for

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