When Bobby April arrived in Philadelphia by way of Buffalo, he wanted to bring with him a certain attitude that made his units so successful in upstate New York. April doesn't view special teams any differently than he does offense or defense.
In fact, the way April sees it, a special teams play is either the first play of the offensive series, or the last play of the defensive series. In other words, those players on special teams are just as critical as the starters on offense or defense.
"Special teams plays are just huge always because it either involves field position, scoring points, defending the lead or defending the kicker," April said. "So, they're all big. When you have a gaffe in that area, it's generally detrimental to your team in terms of probability of being successful, at least on the next series."
That's April's approach. And judging by his track record, it's a pretty successful one.
But the Eagles special teams unit is still working to make a name for itself. After the coverage teams struggled a bit against Green Bay, they held the Lions to an average starting field position of their own 22-yard line. That was the positive. Not so positive was the fact that Dimitri Patterson was unable to down a Sav Rocca punt at the Lions' 1-yard-line, a play that April knows could have been a huge momentum swing in the game.
"You have a chance to down it at the 1, I mean, that's huge," April said. "The probability is the next team that scores is the team that punted the football. So, we try to take advantage of those."
April stresses the importance of capitalizing on opportunities. The special teams unit only gets so many plays per game, and it's crucial that they take advantage of every chance they get. Last week, one of those crucial plays was the onside kick late in the fourth quarter. Rookie receiver Riley Cooper had a chance to catch the ball and essentially end the game, but he wasn't able to control it.
April knows that was a major mistake by his hands team, and he's thankful the defense was able to bail them out.
"Obviously, that puts the game away and if you don't make the play, then you're under a lot of stress," April said. "The defense, fortunately, boy, they came up like champs because that's a tough deal. In their place, when they've come back that quick and then get that kick to then take them four plays and out, that's a tremendous asset to have a defense like that. The probability of doing that is not great. They did it and we were able to win the game because of that."
The special teams may still be a work in progress, but the Eagles are awfully thankful that a proven coach such as April is manning the ship.
-- Posted by Josh Goldman, 5:00 p.m., September 23