Special teams coordinator Bobby April certainly understands why Eagles fans would want to see Pro Bowl returner DeSean Jackson helping out.
The Eagles rank tied for 28th in punt return average and 30th in kick return average in 2012. However, April said that the team is standing by rookie punt returner Damaris Johnson and rookie kick return specialist Brandon Boykin.
"We have a lot of faith in them. I have a lot of faith in them," April said on Thursday. "And I believe a little better calculation on how we deploy ourselves and where we concentrate our forces may be a little greater anticipation of some things. I think these guys' talent will shine."
If there ever was a week for the Eagles' special teams units to break out of their slump, it will be this Sunday against the Lions. The Lions rank last in defending punt returns and next-to-last against kickoff returns. Detroit has surrendered two punt return and two kickoff return touchdowns in 2012.
"All I can say is it doesn't matter who we're playing. We're just trying to do the absolute best we can. You never want to play a game more concerned about the opponent than you are yourself," April said. "So whatever they do we'll try to take advantage of. Hopefully we will. They're no different than playing whoever we play, whoever we played last week or the week before in terms of we're just focused on us executing the plan."
Jackson has been one of the most explosive return specialists in recent years. In 2009, Jackson led the entire NFL with a 15.2 punt return average as he returned two punts for touchdowns. In 2010, Jackson had an 11.6 average and the "Miracle at the New Meadowlands" walk-off punt return touchdown against the Giants.
April did say that Jackson could be used in emergency situations, which has been the case all season. But his availability would be head coach Andy Reid's decision.
"He's always on deck. He's always there, prepared there, to go," April said. "He doesn't catch as many punts as he did when he was the punt returner but he's still trained for it."
Jackson said that he's always enjoyed returning punts because he has a "niche" for it, but left it up to the coaches in terms of how and when he's used.
"That's a coach's decision. I don't make those decisions," Jackson said. "Anything for the team to help, go out there and spark plays, whatever it is, I'm here to do."
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