Philadelphia Eagles News

Special Teams Coordinator Bobby April

On having Pro Bowl CB Asante Samuel on special teams:"A couple things on that. One, he probably won't – he won't be the starter, but there's a lot of time especially with the multiple positions that the corners play that he's the most likely guy that can go in and do that skill. I want him at least know what to do, at least know what to do and then during training camp. And then I would say, from a standpoint of just Asante, he's a Pro Bowler. Man, he's had a tremendous attitude. Everything I've seen about him is really a plus, a plus. His energy – I told him that the first time, 'We need the energy out there. Go on out there and get that energy.' He won't take a lot of reps, but I do want him to know what to do, I do want him to know what to do. He's obviously a very talented guy. It is a statement by him that he's willing to be a team guy. I think for every possible reason, it's a positive that he's out there."

On what he can learn about these guys at this point, given that there is no live contact right now: "I think you can learn a lot about their athleticism, their judgment, their understanding, their ability to put their bodies in the right position to enter contact. Maybe not the gut-check of contact that you see, but there's enough there. And then when you watch the live stuff (offense and defense), you can tell who will be able, when those points meet, make contact."

On whether he can evaluate who is prepared for special teams just by watching offensive and defensive drills: "Oh yeah, oh absolutely, absolutely. From an offensive and defensive play? Absolutely."

On P Sav Rocca talking about the importance of getting guys used to game situations in practice:"Well, Sav started that all the way back to – way back; kind of in the spring. He was here for most of the stuff when we did some things. He's been training like that since April, so he's real familiar with it. That's really what a punter has to do. He's not on the driving range hitting the balls. He's got to know how to play from 40 yards out, he's got to know how to play from 60 yards out, he's got to know how to play backed up, he's got to know how to get it over there, he's got to know how to get it there. We have a procedure where we try to cover as many of those areas as we can. We attach goals to them, too. So every kick, he's striding for a certain performance within that kick, even if it's just him and I out there. I think it works out good. I'm glad to hear he said it because it sounds like it's a positive for him."

On how Rocca is coming along: "I think he has been consistent. I think he's been very consistent. It's to the point now where his inconsistent punts are still really good punts. He's punted fantastic, he really has. He's had a tremendous camp."

On saying that LS Jon Dorenbos was one of the best longsnappers and possibly one of the best for years to come, back in 2003 when he was a coach in St. Louis: "Yeah, how that actually happened – his agent called me and asked me to look at him and I did. But, you know, we had taken a young man, Chris Massey, and Chris Massey has been snapping for over a decade. So I had gone and worked out Chris a lot and he was our snapper. We were more than happy with him and obviously they still are. He still plays for the Rams. I watched Jon at UTEP and I called the agent back and said, 'The guy is really good. I'll try to help him. I'll try to do whatever I can, but I can't be his agent. I'll try to help him if anybody wants to know anything.' So some people called me and then he got a little bit on the media deal. You know with Len Pasquarelli and Paul Zimmerman, maybe. That type of thing. Vic Carucci had listed him as one of the top guys."

* On what caught his eye about Dorenbos:*
"Well, he was so accurate. He had good velocity, he had good accuracy. I liked his vigor. It's a little bit different in college because that guy doesn't get hit, they can release right away, most of them don't have a blocking assignment. But I liked his energy. I certainly liked his snapping ability. Then (former Buffalo Bills president and general manager) Tom Donahoe picked him up with the Bills and then I was there, I guess, a year later."

On what makes Dorenbos one of the best: "Well, I think he's only gotten better from what I originally saw and his blocking has gotten better. He's always been a great team guy. Always been a high energy guy. I just think he's gotten, by small increments every year, once you're really up there. Once you bench press 500 pounds, you don't jump to 550 real fast. If you start out at 200, you might go to 250. So, it's small increments when your performance is that good, but I think he's gotten better consistently over the years."

On whether he's adjusting his scheme to account for the fact that Dorenbos won't have a blocker this season: "Well, he'll still have to block, he just won't have anybody directly over him. Now, in college, it's been like that a long time."

On whether that can ease the transition for guys going from college to the NFL: "Oh, no doubt. Oh, no doubt. It was a good rule."

On whether he has to change anything on his end: "Not really because, you know, we practice without a guy on him as much as we practice a guy on him."

* On WR Jason Avant returning punts today in practice and whether that was to give some guys a rest:*
"No, we've just had so many guys nicked. (WR) Jeremy (Maclin) and (WR) DeSean (Jackson) were nicked. Jason had done it in college. Or I should say Jason did it in college. He hadn't done it in a long time, but I know the kind of person he is and the kind of ability he has to catch the ball. I thought let's give him a try. We've only been trying for a couple of days. I've been real impressed with him. He made a couple mistakes today on some balls, but it will get better just by experience. Just by experience, he'll get better. The type of guy he is, he'll make some jumps, he'll make some jumps. We wanted to try him. You never know how this roster is going to play out, and if you're top two guys are injured, you've got to have some contingency plan. I thought he was the best one. That's not a lack of faith in anybody, but Jason Avant is going to make this team. Well, nobody has got a guarantee."

On what appeals to him about Avant when you're looking for a returner: "First of all, when you put talent, work ethic, character in the equation, boy, I don't know if you'd come out with a better product than Jason Avant. So I knew he would be diligent, serious about it, plus he's really skilled and he had done it before. It's not like taking a guy who hadn't totally done it. In fact, I asked (RB) J.J. Arrington because I didn't know. I didn't know, maybe at Cal; anywhere. Did he ever return punts? And he said, 'No.' Even if he trained – they've got to have some experience. There's a level that you have to have."

On whether you can turn a player into a kick return specialist over the course of training camp: "I think over the course of an offseason, but over the course of a camp, that's a little tight. (WR) Riley Cooper's a guy we've worked in there some, too, but Riley's a guy, he has so many other things on his plate, that he has to do for us special teams-wise, and if he were to be a backup, he needs to get that other stuff in. He's done some, and in the offseason, we'll do more with him, because you've got to catch that ball. I mean, you've got to catch it. And we want to be good in that pooch punt area. We want to be really good. We don't want that team to be tapping that ball in at the two-yard line and having our offense go 98 yards, so we want to be good in that, so we need sure-handed guys that can block, that can do all that, and those are two, almost perfect, matches: Riley and (WR) Jason (Avant). Riley had never caught punts before, so that would really be on me, if he went into a game this year, returned a punt and dropped it. That'd be all on me and none on him, even though he's actually the guy who dropped it, because he needs more time, he needs more time just for his own psyche."

* On whether he has a better feel if WR Jeremy Maclin and WR DeSean Jackson will be available to return punts, and if using Avant as a punt returner in practice was a contingency in case those two can't return:*
"This is not why Jason was put back there. Jason was put back there primarily to be a guy that we can use in that backed-up situation. And (head coach Andy Reid) and I have not talked. We've talked in general, but not specifically about what he'll want to do, like I said last time we had this press conference, whatever he decides, it's going to be a tough decision, because that's an offensive player. We're all in the same boat on this. There's not separate boats that are trying to get to Dallas for the Super Bowl, we're all on the same boat, so if we've got a leak in one area, we're taking in water, whether it comes from offense, defense or special teams."

On whether P Ken Parrish has a legitimate shot at breaking camp as the team's punter: "Yeah, I think he's punted really well. I think (P) Sav (Rocca) has had a really good camp, but this kid has too, I mean this guy has really done a good job. He's really opened some eyes on his ability. He punted here last year in camp and that was the reason I wanted to bring him back. I looked at his numbers from a year ago and thought 'wow', I don't know if there's a guy out there better than this. I said 'I can't find a guy that has better numbers than he had in camp last year. Let's give him another shot. Let's see what he can do.' And of course, he's gotten better. His numbers are better than last year, and he's been kicking off, and he's been holding, so that's a valuable guy. It'll be a tough decision to let him go, because he's talented.

"You don't ever want to let a talented guy go, but with Sav, honestly, I don't ever want to short-change Sav on things, either, I mean, his number of inside-the-20s was extremely high—one of the tops in the league. And then he set the all-time mark for net punt for a Philadelphia Eagle, so the guy's coming off of a great year. And he has punted well. That's an organizational decision, but Sav has done well, but this kid has done (well), too. It's going to be a tough decision, I think, but Sav has done it in games, we'll have to see in preseason. I don't know how coach (Reid) will want to handle it, but its coach's call."

On whether the decision to keep Parrish has anything to do with trying to take some of the strain off of K David Akers' leg on kickoffs: "Absolutely. Initially, it has a lot to do with it, because he can kick off. Now you're talking about not just kicking off in the game, or kicking off to, maybe he can kick to the right especially good, or kick to the left especially good. And if he's better than Dave, you have that in your arsenal, so that's a plus, but then there's a lot, for us to practice our kickoff return and our kickoff coverage and everything else, you can use the JUGS, but it's just not the same. You need that live picture coming at you, instead of a JUGS machine. So that takes a lot of wear and tear off of David, too. So yeah, in the spring, that was certainly consideration, and I haven't talked to our hierarchy on that, but I think it's still the same consideration it was when we signed him."

On what WR Kelley Washington brings to the special teams unit: "He's a big guy that can really run, and he is committed to that area. It's a priority for him, and he's talented. He's talented enough to play receiver in this league, so that's a really great combination when you've got, in general, a position that, they're skilled, but they're not thumpers and they're not physical in coverage. He adds to that thing. He's got a high value to special teams, because he just jumps in almost like the linebackers, almost like the tight ends or the backs, he's not a small guy that only has to play on the edge and maybe it's tough to put him in situations where he can't take on bigger guys.

"He can almost play anywhere. He can play on that front five—it's tough for a wide receiver to do that. He can play inside on the punt, rush, it's tough for a receiver to do that. He can play inside on the kickoff, he can do a lot of things. It'll be a tough decision, how it pans out wide receiver-wise, but he'd definitely bring something to us."

On whether special teams play can make the difference as to whether or not a player makes the team: "Yeah, absolutely it can. And I'm speaking now for the organization, and may be overspeaking too much, we'll, I'm sure, look into if a guy's playing the fifth receiver, and he's going to average five, six plays a game. Then he's going to average 25 plays a game on special teams, boy, you'd like a really good player, playing those 25 plays. You'd like a good player playing the five, too, but if it's really close, and one's really dominant on teams, that's usually how that's decided.

"That's usually how that's decided, so that's where it comes in, you say you make the team on special teams, maybe a little bit less at your position, but you're the third tight end and you play eight plays a game, and 25 on teams, so you play a total of 33, you want a really good player playing the bulk of those plays. That's how it's decided, at least, in my general knowledge of how it's decided. We haven't gotten to that point. As far as I'm concerned, I'm just training the guys, and they're performance is going to speak for itself, and then our administrators are going to decide what's best for the team.

"The whole picture. And I'm going to say 'Amen' to it, because if that's the best thing to get us to the Super Bowl, then I'm going for it. So, really I'm just training them to play their best, and letting the chips ride."

On whether it is unclear if Parrish will play on special teams: "I haven't talked to coach (Reid) about that, yet. About the first game? We haven't decided on who we're going to use, we have not decided, and probably coach would make that announcement, anyway. I haven't been here long enough to know how that goes, so I won't be announcing who's going to be playing and who won't, if that's okay with you guys."

On whether he considers the punter spot open or if Parrish needs to unseat Rocca: "I think Ken got the baton, and when he got it he was trailing, and he's still trailing, and we're coming into the stretch, and he's still got a chance at the wire, if that makes sense."

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