Earlier this week, special teams coordinator Bobby April indicated the team plans to decrease DeSean Jackson's involvement in punt returns this season. Friday, head coach Andy Reid explained the reasoning behind that decision.
"I want him to concentrate on the receiving end of it," Reid said. "Most of all, we think we have guys that can contribute there and be effective and that are explosive players. Now, we have to see, so DeSean's making sure that those guys do well, making sure that they play well. That's not to say that we won't use DeSean in certain situations, but right now, I want those other kids to get the reps, to step up and see what they can do."
Fourth-round draft pick Brandon Boykin excelled as a returner at Georgia, earning the 2011 Paul Hornung award for the country's most versatile player. He and undrafted rookie wide receiver Damaris Johnson will receive the lion's share of the return reps early on, Reid said.
"Obviously we brought Boykin in to do that, so I'd probably tell you that he's right there ... (on) both kick and punt," Reid said. "We know he can do both. He's done more kickoffs than he has punts, and then (Damaris) Johnson's another one that's done it and so we're kind of leaving him in there as the primary punt guy right now, giving him reps."
Reid also mentioned Chad Hall as an experience returner. Undrafted rookie cornerback Cliff Harris is also in the mix.
"Cliff has done it," Reid said. "We're going to test him out. He was a little inconsistent when we did it with him during the rookie camp, but we'll just see. He sure has the talent."
Boykin's role as a returner is added to the plate of the rookie who is also competing for the nickel cornerback job, though Joselio Hanson is certainly the leader in the clubhouse.
"I expect (Boykin) to try to do (challenge Hanson), yeah," Reid said. "But I'll tell you, Joselio, one of his strengths is he knows what he's doing. So, Boykin's going to put his nose to the grinder, make sure that he learns and competes and challenges him, and I think he'll do that ... I'd tell you that Joselio's ahead of him right now, Boykin's got to beat him out.
"Joselio is very intelligent. I thought physically he was in great shape. I wasn't sure he came back in great shape last year. In the OTAs, there was a concentrated effort to get himself in great shape. We had the whole issue where we released him last year and brought him back. I just think he's in a good place right now mentally and physically, and he showed that in the OTAs."
Meanwhile, Reid classified the injury to tight end Brent Celek as a mild MCL sprain, adding that Celek could be back in a few days, or perhaps a week. Reid added that he's unsure yet if the team will bring in another tight end, especially considering the mandatory three-day ramp-up period for players signed off the street. In the mean time, Clay Harbor, Brett Brackett and Chase Ford will soak up the tight end reps, with fullback Emil Igwenagu, a collegiate tight end, also in the mix.
One player who will not be in the mix is free agent Jeremy Shockey, as Reid shot down that rumor.
"Not right now, no" Reid said when asked if the team was considering the soon-to-be 32-year-old Shockey.