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Special Teams Coordinator Bobby April

Posted Dec 6, 2012

On the thought that the performance against the Cowboys was the best the special teams unit has played this season: “Well because of the big play it (may have been the best performance). (K) Alex (Henery) kicked really well. He missed one of those and may have had a penalty on it. We ended up with pretty good field position regardless. He did well and I think (P) Mat McBriar is doing exactly what we wanted him to do too. He’s getting the ball out quickly. (Recently) he’s giving us a little more ability to cover the kick. His hang-distance ratio has been good. Of course the play by (WR) Damaris (Johnson) was really outstanding.”

On the progress that Johnson has made as a punt returner: “I think there are a lot of components to it. I think he has gradually (gotten) better. But he can run with the ball. He’s got good ability when he’s got the ball in his hands. The more space he has, if we can create it either with pressure to knock off the ability of the punter or the holdup, and think our holdups are getting better too, I think it’s a combination of a lot of things (that have allowed Johnson to succeed). We’re getting a little bit better pressure. We’re just getting better as a punt return team. Hopefully we’ll continue to get some good results, help our offense, and hopefully win the game.”

On whether he saw the punt return developing as it was happening: “No, it was kind of a desperation situation. I saw that the ball was driven so I knew (Johnson) would be able to get some type of return because it was a 63-yard punt with a low hang time. The punter was really just trying to get the ball out of there. So I knew he’d get up the field a little bit. And then he actually split two sets of two players. He split a set early, he split a set secondly around the 25 (yard line) and then I thought he had a chance. (LB) Casey Matthews made a great block on (P) Brian Moorman. You don’t generally consider the punter one of their better cover guys but Moorman might have been the fastest guy on the field. He’s a real track athlete, (a) hall of fame track performer. (Moorman) can run so (Matthews) made a good block on him.”

On whether Johnson should have fielded the ball so deep in the team’s own territory: “Yeah, we told him in this situation you don’t take the chance (letting the Cowboys down the ball). Try to give us one more shot with the ball in your hands. Obviously you’ve got to hold onto the ball because our offense has to have it. Even with very little time left we’ve got to do something. We needed to get the onside kick to really parlay everything into a win but we didn’t.”

On how much he thinks Johnson can grow as he continues to play in the NFL: “He’s got good quickness. He’s good running with the ball and he’s tough too. You don’t see the ball hit the ground that often with him because he’s not afraid to run up through traffic. And he got the one penalty a couple of weeks ago. Coming up for the fair catch the (defender) kept coming (and Johnson) didn’t back down. A lot of times the coverage team has to back down from that but the returner acquiesces most of the time and gets out of the way. This kid doesn’t so I think his ability to get to the shorter punts, because if we put him at the 45 (yard line) and he comes up 10 to get it, that’s really a 10-yard return.

"It’s a crazy way to look at it, but if we catch it, all the run up is return yards. So he’s done a good job of that. I think he’s got a really good future. I think he’s doing well now but I think he can be a really solid, exceptional returner. He’s had a great career. He had a great high school career, he had a great college career, and I think he has every opportunity to have a great career. He’s having a really good season.”

On whether returning a punt for a touchdown will help Johnson’s confidence: “I think he (was) confident prior to that. I think he was competitive prior to that. Certainly that always adds another dimension, an intangible dimension to your mental state. Success always does. He’ll benefit from that as well.”

On whether the team was in a punt block formation prior to Johnson’s touchdown: “Yes. We were trying to pressure it and then it’s a long play obviously. To get the punt block is about two seconds so we have a return we try to capitalize on once the ball is punted. But it was designed to block the punt. It was not designed to be a return.”

On what statistics related to special teams he feels are the most important to indicate a successful return unit: “How good the punter’s hang time is. That’s generally what will get the punt returner the best return. If the more time those 10 guys have to close the net (average), the tougher it is to get a return. So generally you’re competing against a returner more than anything. And then the punt returner’s pure ability is his acceleration, his vision, and his toughness.”

On whether a kicker needs to have game-winning field goals on his resume to be considered great: “I wouldn’t want to define (Henery) as not being great. I don’t know if he’s great or not. I wouldn’t want to define him as he’s not great because he’s not ever kicked one. But I do agree that those are the kicks that really put you in a different echelon than the rest of the kickers. When you kick the game winners, when you kick the really long kicks, you deserve to be in a category outside of the other people.

"That’s what he did (in college). That’s why I liked him so much, and we as an organization like him so much, in college because that’s exactly what he did. You go back and look at the big games and the game winners he had and the long kicks. He beat Colorado on a 56-yarder. He nailed them. He hasn’t not nailed them for us. We just, for whatever reason, haven’t been in a position to make it or miss it. It just hasn’t happened. But I agree with you. That sets you apart from the other guys. I think it’s coming through with the isolated deal that wins the game. (It) absolutely makes a difference.”

On what happened that the Eagles did not recover the onsides kick against Dallas: “I think we did everything almost as well as you could do. We needed to drive their guys back in. It needed to be like the Spartans at Thermopylae. (We) needed to drive them out of the gap there. They needed to knock them into the ball. That’s the one thing we didn’t do. Alex kicked it way better (than his previous onside kick attempts). We’ve had two onsides kicks, both against the Cowboys. His first one was low and sort of back and (TE Jason Witten) just caught it. (It resulted in) nothing.

"This one he had to get up under it and it was packed in there. He made a nice play. We needed to flock back a little bit better and knock somebody into that ball because that’s what we’re trying to do. Maybe we needed a bigger type player, although we did have linebackers and that type of thing in there. They did their best on it. I don’t condemn it, I’m just saying that would have been the only way to get the result. It was a good kick, it was executed well, they out-executed us, and the probability is that they are going to get it. So we’re at some odds on that but it was a well kicked ball and he’s getting better at that too. As we keep going he gets better and better.”

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