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News » Eagles - Segrest pleased with performance by Eagles' special teams

Eagles - Segrest pleased with performance by Eagles' special teams

Eagles - Segrest pleased with performance by Eagles' special teams
RORY SEGREST'S group sure picked the perfect time to be, well, special.

The Eagles' special-teams coordinator oversaw perhaps his units' finest overall performance in Sunday's 26-14 NFC wild-card win in Minnesota. The day featured four David Akers field goals, two huge punt returns (30 and 62 yards) by DeSean Jackson and great coverage on seven kickoffs and four punts, only one of which was returned, for 1 yard.

It is the time of year when each part of every play is scrutinized to the highest degree, particularly the play of the special teams. One mistake could change the next day's tasks to packing equipment and talking about next season.

"You always want to step up your game at playoff time," Segrest said yesterday, as the coaches prepared for Sunday's divisional playoff game at the New York Giants. "The main thing right now is going out and executing and focusing on your basic fundamentals and your basic techniques. Making sure you execute every time you go out. Obviously at playoff time, it's a big situation where you're trying to control the battle of field position."

For a group that was under fire early in the season, Segrest's units have been a big part of the Eagles' improbable playoff push.

Following the Eagles' 24-20 loss at Chicago in Week 4, kicker David Akers came under scrutiny for his two misses during that game, both from 40 yards and beyond. Dating back to last season, Akers, at that point, had made only three of 13 from that distance. Everything from leg strength to age came into question regarding the veteran, who turned 34 in December.

At the time, Akers was confident that his troubles from long distance were a nonissue, insisting that those problems were correctable.

He was correct. Since the Chicago game, Akers has made 29 of 34 (85.3 percent), including 11 of 14 from 40-plus.

"As far as David goes, he missed some long kicks earlier in the season, but he's made some adjustments on things, and now he's gotten into a groove and he's doing a nice job of it," Segrest said. "He just kind of mis-aimed on a couple of kicks early in the season. It was just a matter of trying to overcompensate for the wind.

"He's a veteran guy, an experienced guy. He kind of just changed a little bit this season with his leg strength, and he's had to change his compensation as far as whether the ball moves left or right."

Lately, it's pretty much been moving right between the uprights.

Many of Akers' attempts have been set up by the rookie return tandem of Jackson and Quintin Demps. Jackson set up a 43-yard field goal with a 62-yard return against the Vikings. Demps has given the Eagles their most dangerous kickoff return specialist since Brian Mitchell.

"They are rookies; at the same time, they have a whole season under their belt at this point," Segrest said of his returners. "We still make some decisions that we'd like to make a little bit better at times. We've got guys capable of giving us some big returns back there. We're real confident in those guys and we like to give them the opportunity to get the ball in their hands and see what they can do with it."

They'll have another shot this weekend, at what's sure to be a cold and blustery Giants Stadium. Akers has struggled in the Meadowlands, with two field goals blocked this season, one returned for touchdown. Punter Sav Rocca is still trying to get used to unfavorable weather.

"In windy conditions, it's a matter of [Rocca] just being a little bit inexperienced from that standpoint," Segrest said. "Guys that have been in it for a little while know their base technique and what they're trying to get accomplished. Then all of the sudden, you run into some weather issues and you have to adjust things just slightly, and it really affects how you punt the Football."

As for the Giants' special-team units?

"They have great core players, they have good returners and obviously their field-goal block is one of the best we'll face," he said. "They work hard to get off the ball, they're fast off the snap. It's a great challenge for us all around this week."

A challenge Segrest's bunch seems ready to handle. *

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: January 6, 2009

Sav Rocca Name: Sav Rocca
Position: P
Age: 34
Experience: 2 years
College: None
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