Bobby April is as hard-working a special teams coach as there is. He's in the building early and leaves late at night. But even after a long day's work, there's one thing that keeps April up at night - penalties.
The special teams unit has improved its kickoff coverage over the past three weeks, but the penalties continue to mount. April's group has been flagged for fair catch interference twice, an illegal wedge, an ineligible man downfield and a number of holding calls. April knows the penalties are damaging and need to stop.
"There are too many mistakes and there are too many penalties," April said. "The penalties, I think whatever lack of – discipline sounds like it's entrenched throughout the players. You say it's a lack of discipline, but those are undisciplined plays and we've just got to stay on top of every little, minor detail. Address it, point it out, nothing slides. At this point, at least in that game, it hurts. It hurt our probability of winning.
"Certainly the offense and defense played great on both sides. So, we were able to overcome it. In a close game, you can't have four special teams penalties. They're too costly."
Cornerback Jorrick Calvin saw some action in the return game last week in Jacksonville, and the coaches liked what they saw from the rookie. Calvin took some reps at punt returner in the preseason while with the Cardinals, and has confidence that he can perform when called upon now. April said that Calvin is a valuable backup to DeSean Jackson, and shows great promise for a young player in the return game.
"We like Jorrick Calvin, so everything you've seen in the two games he's played, he's played pretty well," April said. "He runs hard. He stuffs the tackle. He makes good decisions and he has good ball security. We think DeSean is ahead of him. We think Ellis is ahead of him, but he's not far behind. He's an excellent go-to guy in situations like that, or to maybe, possibly, save some wear and tear on those guys in their offensive and defensive responsibilities."
As the return of quarterback Donovan McNabb draws closer, Bobby April has his focus in a very different place. The Redskins sport a formidable special teams, and will be looking to change the game on one play. April knows that in close games, especially divisional games, the importance of solid special teams is even greater. He expects quite the challenge this week, as Redskins returners Phillip Buchanon and Devin Thomas both pose significant threats.
"Phillip Buchanon, boy, when he first came into the league, he took it by storm," April said. "He had a little bit of a lull as a player. His talent hasn't left him, so he's dangerous anytime. The return of the kid out of Michigan State, Devin Thomas. He's a big, strong guy. He's done really well. They've really gone after the punter a lot; they've tried to block a lot of punts. And Buchanon hasn't had as many opportunities as most people. Everybody is explosive and every week is just a humongous challenge."
As the sports world focuses on Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick, Bobby April knows his special teams could very well determine the outcome.
-- Posted by Josh Goldman, 3:20 p.m., September 30