Sure, it's early in the process, but special teams coordinator Bobby April is a meticulous planner, so he's well-versed in his options on every phase of special teams. So when April was asked about who might be returning kickoffs for the Eagles in 2010, he gave an expectedly thoughtful response that lauded the abilities of cornerback Ellis Hobbs.
"Fortunately or unfortunately, I was in the division with Ellis Hobbs when he was in New England," April said. "So I had to face him twice a year as a coach. Boy, he's really good; he's really good. I think it's going to be a question with him of his health because you're talking about, obviously, a serious deal when you're talking neck injury or recovering from a neck injury, or whatever. Ellis will have to make that decision on how healthy he is to actually do that. It's a high-impact play, there's no doubt about that."
But the Eagles have other options if Hobbs isn't cleared to return kicks or if he's deemed too integral to the defense as a starting cornerback to return kicks. Safety Quintin Demps has also been a productive returner in his career, averaging 25.3 yards per return in his two seasons, including a touchdown in 2008.
"I think Quintin Demps, if you round up the first day of practice, the very first thing we did, we did that ball security drill where you poke the ball and try to pull it out and everything. You have to hold on to the ball," April said. "One of our articles is possession is our number one priority. So that was a drill, but it was also a message that we have to do this. I know he put the ball on the ground a couple times, but he's a tremendous returner.
"I think with those two guys with the experience, we're in pretty good shape."
There are other internal options as returners, including, but not limited to, wide receiver Chad Hall, running back Martell Mallett, cornerback Devin Ross and safety Macho Harris, who handled the duties part-time last season. But April said there's a long way to go before evaluating those players, especially considering the importance of the position.
"It's a big position for a lot of reasons," he said. "It's a big position for judgment, it's a big position for ball security, so we need a strong guy in there. I feel good with those two for sure. Everybody else, we have to wait and see how they play and maybe in preseason."
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 4:10 p.m., May 1