Eagles director of personnel operations leaving for Alabama

Eagles director of personnel operations leaving for Alabama

Updated: 12:46 p.m.

The Eagles' director of personnel operations, Joe Pannunzio, is leaving Philadelphia and heading back to the University of Alabama, the Eagles confirmed to CSNPhilly.com

Pannunzio is taking a job as Alabama's tight ends and special teams coach, the Alabama Media Group first reported. 

Pannunzio joined the Eagles in 2015 and has been in his position since. Before coming to Philadelphia, he was Alabama's director of football operations from 2011-14 but has plenty of coaching in his background. 

From 2006-10, he was Miami's tight ends and special teams coordinator. From 2000-05, he was the head coach at Murray State. His college coaching career dates back to 1981 and includes several stops along the way. 

Eagles' special teams unit ranked best in NFL for second time in 3 years

Eagles' special teams unit ranked best in NFL for second time in 3 years

For another season in 2016, the Eagles' offense and defense were at times up and down. 

Special teams never wavered. 

Dave Fipp's unit has been among the best since his arrival to Philadelphia in 2013. In 2016, his unit was the very best, according to Rick Gosselin's annual rankings in the Dallas Morning News. This is the second time in three years the Eagles have earned the top spot. 

The Eagles had the best kickoff starting position at the 27.2-yard and the best opponent kickoff starting position at the 22.7-yard line in 2016. They led the league with two kick return touchdowns and had the second-best punt return average of 12.9. 

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On top of it all, kicker Caleb Sturgis made 35 field goals, a career-high and a new Eagles record. 

"There's been a long legacy of playing really well on special teams here with the Eagles," Fipp said to the Eagles' website on Wednesday. "I think we inherited some of that legacy and it's been passed down from the guys way before us. We're just picking up the flag and carrying it further. I think there's definitely a standard and an expectation that when you're playing special teams for this organization you have to play at a high level. That really has nothing to do with me. It's set by guys who played a long time ago and then it's set from the very top of the organization, by Mr. (Jeffrey) Lurie, and it all trickles down."

It's not just Fipp. The Eagles as an organization have put an emphasis on special teams, as evidenced by re-signing long-snapper Jon Dorenbos, punter Donnie Jones and special teams ace Chris Maragos to contract extensions during the season. 

This offseason, two important teamers will become free agents: Bryan Braman (UFA) and Trey Burton (RFA). 

While Fipp declined to speak to CSNPhilly.com toward the end of the season about the possibility of becoming a head coach, his players raved about him (see story). From Maragos to Burton to Darren Sproles to Kamu Grugier-Hill, they all thought Fipp has head coach potential. So did Ravens head coach John Harbaugh while on a conference call with Philly reporters during the season. While he did take a year to coach defensive backs, Harbaugh is still the best special teams coordinator-to-head coach example in the league. 

On that conference call, Harbaugh broke down the reasons a special teams coordinator, in theory, should make a good head coach: He has to be organized. He has to understand the roster. He has to evaluate talent. He has to develop young players. And he's the only coach aside from the head coach that deals with both sides of the team. 

Fipp has done a masterful job in his four seasons with the Eagles. In 2016, his unit was the best in the league, but that joy is short-lived. 

"Last year means nothing," Fipp said to the Eagles' website. "Rankings are nice, but at the end of the day it really means nothing. The bottom line for us is we want to contend as a team for championships and playoffs. We've got a lot of work ahead of us to get there. Fortunately, we do have some great players to start with, but we've got a lot of work to do both in acquiring players and also bringing the best out of the players that we've got in this building. We're excited about the future. We're excited to get to work here."

Four Temple players invited to this year's NFL combine

Four Temple players invited to this year's NFL combine

There are 330 players who have been invited to the NFL's annual scouting combine in Indianapolis in late February-early March and four of them played their college ball in Philly. 

Temple OL Dion Dawkins, CB Nate Hairston, LB Haason Reddick and RB Jahad Thomas have all been invited — four is a school record. Last year three Temple players went to the combine and all three were drafted. The year before, no Temple players were invited. 

Reddick (6-1, 225) is the top prospect among the bunch. While he played defensive end at Temple, Reddick is switching to linebacker as a pro and has already impressed. He was in Mobile, Alabama, for the Senior Bowl and really impressed. The Camden, N.J. native, who played at Haddon Heights, was originally a walk-on at Temple. Now, he could be a first-round pick. 

Dawkins (6-5, 315) is the second-best prospect of the bunch. Like Reddick, he too was at the Senior Bowl and had a really good week. At Temple he played offensive tackle, but many view him as a guard at the next level. He's likely to be a second- or third-round pick, according to various publications. 

In addition to working out, Reddick and Dawkins will have to answer the same questions over and over from NFL teams. Both were suspended in March of 2015 for their part in a January 2015 fight at a nightclub. They were allowed back on the team and were placed in a diversionary program to avoid a trial. 

Hairston (6-0, 185) played in the East-West Shrine game, where some lesser-known prospects get attention. He's a little undersized, but was a solid starter for Temple in 2016. He had two interceptions last season. He might be a late-round pick. 

Thomas (5-10, 170) is another likely late-round pick after piling up 2,599 yards over the last three seasons. In 2016, he carried the ball 207 times for 953 yards and 13 touchdowns. In 2015, he carried the ball 276 times for 1,262 yards and 17 scores. He averaged 4.6 yards per carry in his Temple career.  

In addition to the four Temple players in Indy, Villanova, which hasn't had a player drafted since 2011, will be represented. Tanoh Kpassagnon (6-7, 280) was at the Senior Bowl and was very impressive both at weigh-ins and on the field. He's likely to be a high-round pick. 

Penn State will have just two players at the combine: WR Chris Godwin and DE Garrett Sickels. Godwin is considered a mid-round pick by CBSSports, while Sickels is considered a late-round guy. 

Using nflcombineresults.com, this appears to be the first year since at least 1999 (that's how far their records go back) that Temple will have more players at the combine than Penn State.