Bobby April knows that the kickoff coverage has not been good enough.
After four preseason games, the Eagles had allowed an average of 30.9 yards per kickoff return, 31st in the league. In Sunday's preseason opener, the Eagles allowed 31.2 yards per return. But there is still plenty of reason for optimism, especially because of April's track record.
Consider that in his six years in charge of special teams with the Buffalo Bills, April's kickoff coverage units finished among the top 10 in the league each season. And in five of those six years, there was an improvement from the preseason ranking. In fact, the two times when April's units finished second best in the league in covering kicks - 2004 and 2008 - the Bills were 22nd and 25th respectively during the preseason. That improvement in 2004 is perhaps the most encouraging because it was April's first year in Buffalo.
But by no means does that mean April is making excuses or is content with the kickoff coverage thus far.
"We have a lot to take on this one because it's hurt our football team. It's hindered our probability of success," April told PhiladelphiaEagles.com. "I've been with some (kickoff coverage units) that are really good, some that have led the league, and some that are really bad. The biggest difference is how fast the guys play, how confident they are at playing fast and that they can still make really good decisions while playing at a frantic pace."
Kickoff coverage, as April describes it, is a "chaotic play," and because of its physical nature, it's the hardest of the special teams' phases to practice.
"Overall, we have to tackle better and that's a tougher one to get better in terms of practice because that's full speed, take them to the ground, going live for 70 yards," April said. "That's a tougher one because you're not able to practice that with the 53-man roster."
Of course, by the very nature of the play, kickoff coverage can have a big affect on the momentum of the game. Kickoff occur after points have been scored by the offense, so pinning the opposition back keeps the pressure on, while yielding a big return can negate the importance of whatever points were just scored.
"The thing that's been most disturbing about our coverages - that we've given up plays when we really needed a good coverage, even in the preseason," April said. "Our offense has just given us a boost and our mission is to go out for the first defensive play of that series ... Most people think (kickoff coverage) is something foreign. But when (the other team) has that ball in their hands and they're running for the goal line, that's a defensive play."
|KICKOFF COVERAGE RANKINGS UNDER APRIL|
|Year||End Of Season Rank||Preseason Rank|
|*From 2004-09, April was the Bills special teams coordinator|
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 4:25 p.m., September 14