DeSean Jackson was penciled in as the punt returner the second he was drafted in April. Quintin Demps wasn't the kickoff return man until he won the job in the preseason.
No one was surprised to see Jackson make an impact right away. He returned six punts for a touchdown in three years at Cal. Demps had return experience at UTEP, but nothing was expected.
Both have paid immediate dividends. In fact, the Eagles have had a punt return and a kickoff return for a touchdown in the same season for the first time since 2000. And back then it was Brian Mitchell handling both the punt and kickoff return duties.
Jackson has had at least one return of double-digit yards in nine of the Eagles' 14 games this season. He had a 60-yard return in his debut against the Rams and a 68-yard return for a score against this week's opponent, the Washington Redskins, back in Week 5.
Demps started slow and one of the biggest reasons for that was one of his strongest assets - his vision.
"It kind of worked against him that he's got such great vision," special teams coordinator Rory Segrest said on Thursday. "He would see too much and kind of see guys coming in from different directions rather than trying to stick with the return, getting up through there before the defenders had an opportunity to get to him."
Demps has vastly improved and currently ranks fourth in the NFC with an average of 26.0 yards per return. He accounted for the team's lone touchdown in the loss to Baltimore when he returned a kickoff 100 yards for a score. The Eagles have the fifth-best average drive start following kickoffs in the league.
"He's definitely made a lot of progress from the beginning of the season," Segrest said. "He's doing a great job. He has the speed. He has the tackle-breaking ability."
The question now is whether these two can continue to produce with the amount of snaps they see on offense and defense. Jackson plays a lot more than Demps, as he is a starter at wide receiver. But Demps has certain defensive sub-packages that he is a part of. And Segrest said that those added plays can limit one's effectiveness in the return game.
"It's tough from that standpoint," Segrest said. "If you look at guys who are doing that now, even (Bears wide receiver Devin Hester) is falling off just a little bit, if you look at the number of reps (Jackson) is taking on offense. You would like to think that wouldn't be a factor on things, but it definitely is."
The Redskins have surrendered two touchdowns off of punt returns this season - Jackson's and New Orleans' Reggie Bush back in Week 2. Can either take one to the house this Sunday?