Much of Bobby April's Thursday press conference was devoted to importance of the performance turned in by the special teams as the Eagles fought back for their historic 38-31 comeback victory over the Giants last Sunday. April recounted the game-winning punt return for a touchdown by DeSean Jackson, lauding Jackson and the critical blocks by Jason Avant and Omar Gaither - who April said went "bowling for dollars" when he knocked down three players with one block.
There was also much ado about the critical onsides kick that allowed the Eagles to cut the lead from 14 to seven points without having to give up the ball. April praised David Akers for his remarkable ability to hit the kick perfectly while disguising his true intentions and Riley Cooper for his sure-handedness. There was a unique twist to the play in that the Eagles only had 10 men on the field, which April coyly hinted was intentional.
"It's certainly a deceptive move, that's for sure," April said. "We kind of got that from (long snapper and part-time magician Jon) Dorenbos where if we got your attention over here we can pull a quarter out of your ear over here. Anything that's of a deceptive nature we can't divulge our strategy. It wasn't my idea if it was even intended, but since we have everyone in suspense we certainly want them looking over their shoulder at everything we do."
But with the big win behind him, April must prepare for a critical game Sunday that could help the Eagles in their search for a first-round bye. And like he's done all season long, April will be making adjustments to his special teams units because of injury. With Nate Allen lost for the season, Kurt Coleman steps in to become the starting free safety. The domino effect of that move means April loses the services of one of his key special teams performers, much like he did a week ago when Jamar Chaney became the starting middle linebacker.
"Yeah, that's a tough chore, but it comes along with the territory," April said. "That's part of the deal, that's part of the challenge and part of the beauty of it. Every day is really a challenge of trying to get – everybody. Jamar Chaney and anybody we lose like that, obviously we've tried to groom them for a long time. It's nothing out of the ordinary, it's really part of what you have to do and what you have to take on, and know you have to take it on."
Jamar Wall, now a member of the active roster after his promotion from the practice squad, will take over most of Coleman's duties on special teams, though April said that Coleman will remain on the punt return team because of his role as the signal-caller. April can only hope this replacement works as well as last week, when Gaither filled in for Chaney.
Hours after April's press conference, word broke that return man Jorrick Calvin would be placed on injured reserve with a low back injury. While no replacement has yet been named, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin will handle the punt return duties. As for kickoff returns, the in-house options are Maclin, running back Jerome Harrison and Chad Hall and Eldra Buckley, both of whom have returned a kick for the Eagles this season. The Eagles also reportedly worked out two return specialists earlier this week in Clifton Smith and Justin Miller, and two players on the practice squad, wide receivers Rod Harper and Jeremy Williams, have return experience as well.
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 6:15 p.m., December 23