Grugier-Hill Takes Next Man Up to a New Level
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — Like most NFL coaches, Doug Pederson is fond of bringing up the next-man-up mentality and to the coach's credit his team has handled the war of attrition that is the NFL better than most.
On Sunday night during a 37-9 blowout win in Dallas, however, the next man up at kicker for the Eagles turned out to be a linebacker, special teams stalwart Kamu Grugier-Hill
Philadelphia's typical PK, Jake Elliott, suffered a concussion during the opening kickoff while making a tackle on Ryan Switzer and stayed in the game for a bit until missing a 34-yard field goal badly and people started to realize the rookie wasn't right.
So for the entirety of the second half -- a 30-0 Eagles' romp by the way -- Pederson eschewed field goals and extra points but someone had to at least kick off.
Typically that would have been another special teams star in Chris Maragos but the veteran safety is already out of the season with a knee injury so Dave Fipp surveyed the sideline and came up with Grugier-Hill, a safety in college at Eastern Illinois and now a LB in the NFL, who usually lines up right next to Elliott on KOs at the all-important L1 coverage position.
You have to go back to Kamehameha High School in Honolulu to find out how the Eagles landed on Grugier-Hill.
Like many great athletes, Grugier-Hill was a jack of all trades at that level and one of them was punter. Add in a youth playing soccer and Philadelphia felt Grugier-Hill was the best option to get through the game.
It didn't look that way on the sideline when Grugier-Hill took a warmup swing at the kicking net and missed. Under the bright lights, however, things were much better.
In four kickoffs Grugier-Hill had an average distance of 62.8 yards, according to ProFootballFocus.com which is nearly identical to the 63.5 average that Elliott had on the first two kickoffs in the game, although admittedly that was a poor effort from the normal kicker.
Three of the four KGH kickoffs were returned with one touchback and the Cowboys' average starting field position was the 32-yard line, not great but certainly acceptable in an emergency.
As for the actual placekicking, Pederson simply turned up his aggressive nature, forgetting the kicking option by going for it on fourth down deep in Dallas territory, resulting in a 17-yard Wentz to Alshon Jeffery TD, and also taking the two-point option after all TDs, going three-of-four.
And the latter would have been perfect if Zach Ertz had not fumbled right before he was about to cross the goal line on the one failed attempt.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen