After the worst season of his four-year career, Jake Elliott spent most of his offseason trying to simplify things.
The 26-year-old Eagles kicker took some time off to clear his head after the turbulent stretch, then met with a few coaches, tweaked a few things, and went back to basics.
There was one thing he couldn’t make less complicated, though: Finding a place to kick when the Eagles’ facility is closed.
Typically joined by long snapper Rick Lovato and new punter/holder Arryn Siposs, Elliott said the group prefers using local colleges’ practice fields over the summer because of the privacy, but sometimes they have to find a high school in the area to get in reps.
“It’s tough in the offseason,” Elliott said. “We went to Penn and Temple and some local high schools that were in 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.”
Elliott was one of the better kickers in the league in his first three seasons, making 84% of his kicks between 2017-19, which ranked in the top 20 of the league over that time. He hit a game-winning field goal from 61 yards out in his first season with the Eagles and made five of his six attempts greater than 50 yards that season. Since then, he’s gone 6-of-14 from 50 yards out.
Last season, he struggled with chip shots and long field goals alike, posting the sixth-worst make percentage of any kicker at 73.7%.
Elliott said he lost his confidence last season, and spent the summer trying to figure out how to get back on track.
“Confidence is a huge part of being a kicker, obviously,” Elliott said. “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 all year.
“I think I had a really good offseason just trying to look back at some of that stuff,” Elliott said. “I just tried to look back at some of that stuff. I had fewer swing thoughts; it’s kind of like a golfer. You go back and find some swing thoughts.”
While some teams are quick to cut bait with a kicker after a down year, the Eagles have a financial commitment to Elliott that would make it difficult to move on. He signed a five-year deal worth about $20 million in 2019, which is still in the top third of annual value for kickers across the league.
New special teams coordinator Michael Clay said the team still has a great deal of confidence in Elliott’s ability to bounce back from the down season.
“You can go throughout the history, everyone has a bad year,” he said Friday. “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.”
Elliott said he worked with kicking coach Jamie Kohl, who has worked with several NFL kickers, including Wil Lutz (New Orleans Saints) and Harrison Butker (Kansas City Chiefs). Elliott also met with his longtime kicking coach Chris Nendick, who previously played for Northern Illinois.
“I went and worked with a couple coaches,” Elliott said. “I kind of got their eyes on me. 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.”