Philadelphia Eagles News

Special Teams Coordinator Bobby April

On K David Akers and the healing process: "Yeah, I think he's fine. (Head athletic trainer) Rick (Burkholder) and (head) coach (Andy Reid) will go over that in more detail, but he should be fine for the game. He's had some treatment that he's had to take, but he'll be fine."

On who will be returning kicks and punts this season:"Coach and I have discussed that kicks will be (CB Ellis) Hobbs and (S Quintin) Demps, possibly (WR Chad) Hall. He's decided, at this point, how he wants to use the personnel. On the punt returns, there's a possibility of (WR DeSean) Jackson and (WR Jeremy) Maclin will return, but, again, he hasn't decided exactly how he wants to use personnel in this game."

On whether Hobbs is still the number one kick returner: "Well, Hobbs is a very good player. The organization and myself both feel that he's an outstanding player. I think we have a decision to make, so it would be in the best interest of the club overall. But he's definitely a good returner and he definitely can do it and he has experience doing it, but so does (S Quintin) Demps. I think Demps has a real good shot of being a good returner as well. He's tough, he's really fast and there's some competition there, but certainly Ellis is the guy that has the most experience."

On whether he feels that he will have a lot of input on the final roster cuts: "Well, always that bottom third of the roster is undetermined. Pretty much if a guy is starting here, he's not guaranteed that he's going to make the team. But if he's starting on offense or defense, he's got an excellent chance he's going to make it. So you're really dealing with all the back-ups. Then there has to be a wise, sage decision on how that guy can help you the most, which makes you a better overall team and that's where the head coach has to make the decision. He has no pet area in this deal. I'll voice my opinion of what I see from guys on special teams and then the coordinators and offensive coaches will voice what they see.

"Then based off that information and based off of his own evaluation of those players, he'll make some tough decisions because it is a tough decision. That third tight end, how much will he play in a game if he's not a very good special teams player. And if he's not a very good special teams player and he is going to play in the game, then what kind of hit do you want to take at that position on special teams. It's a really complex deal. It's a hard decision because these things are really close, they're really close. I have input in terms of opinion, but really my job is to prepare the guys to play as good as they can play. Express an opinion of how I think their performance is and then whatever is best for the organization, that's the team that we're going to put out there for the Green Bay game."

On what the biggest problem has been on kick return coverage so far: "Well, there have been a lot of things that have kept us from timing that thing up. Some of the kicks have caused us to be a little out of kilter. I think, in the whole scheme of things, probably just needed to invest more time – that's one of those areas that's a high degree of difficulty. Going through training camp, especially this offseason because I'm new. Although the system is really close to what it used to be, I tried to cover a lot of different things and that one area is a high degree of difficulty and it needs more time to be cultivated. I probably didn't invest as much time in it, so we're maybe a little bit behind on that.

"I know that problem and I know what we have to do and we just have to do a better job of it really. That's the main thing; projecting how much to invest and we've worked a lot of guys. I really believe and I think it's right that, if a guy is on this team, if you noticed, we've worked everybody because you owe it to that guy to have a chance to make it. One, if you're signing him, I think you're committed to do that. Then you never know who's going to make it. Even during the year a lot of these guys that we'll cut, we'll bring them back and when we bring them back, the day we bring them back, they're probably on the starting unit of special teams. We bring them back on a Wednesday and they're starting for us against Dallas.

"At least that guy, he's played a lot. He's played a lot in training camp. Maybe that's it because maybe he hadn't signed with anybody since then, but he knows our system and all that. I've had it happen so many times, you bring a guy back because you know him and he knows your system and if you've worked him and you worked him a lot in training camp, there's a benefit to that. It might not show up initially, but as you go when it really counts, when it really counts, it's a benefit for you."

On why kickoff coverage is the toughest of all the factors on special teams: "The kickoff return really is, the kickoff return really is. In coverage we've had problems, too. We had a lot of problems in coverage. We didn't cover very good the first game or the second game. Actually, probably the second game we had covered a little less. The first two kicks were pretty good and then the last two were not good. We had a chance in the game to make two really big plays to help our football team, to help our defensive football team, and they were big plays. One was we scored with fifty-something seconds to go in the half and when we kicked off they brought the ball back to almost midfield.

"Then the defense has got to play excellent to keep three points off the board, and they did. It was three and out, they kicked a long field goal and they missed. But that's putting a lot of stress on the defense. We had a chance to go in and protect that lead on the kickoff coverage and we didn't do it. Then we had a chance one time, defensively, to down the ball at the five and we just didn't do a good job. Whenever there's not a good job, ultimately I have to look and see what I could have done to make it better.

"There's things that I just didn't do well enough in, at least, these first preseason games in kick coverage, and really on kick returns. We've got to do a lot of things better and when I say we, I really mean me. I think the players are giving the effort that they need to. I think anybody can focus more. I've said it before, it's hard for guys to focus this long, but there's no glass ceiling on focus. That's for everybody. Certainly we need to focus more, but certainly they've done a good job I think in everything we've tried to do. I've got to do better."

On whether his system is different from Eagle systems in the past and whether any current players are familiar with his system: "Well, when I came here my goal was to keep everything the same as possible. But, I wanted to keep as many 'same as is' as I could, so as much as I could go 'same as', same as', 'same as' with the terminology, with everything. I'm still messing up a lot of the terminology, because I've made the transfer, mostly, over. But I think there are different coaches and different concepts and things along that line that are different.

"And you know, I'm their fourth guy in four years. So, I think there are some different things that they've had to adjust to, whether we've tried to keep it the same or not. And some of the things I coach more than the scheme are the concepts. Because once you get out there, it's kind of like a game of pool, you know, when you break there are a lot of different things that happen to the fifteen balls. There's no exactly the same when you're running down the field; the guy's position is a little different, the hang time is a little different. So, we focused a tremendous amount on that, and we handle all the scheme too. But, you have to win the preseason games too. There's a reason you play them. There's a reason you have to win them. We've also used those preseason games as part of our training camp; as reps, as ways to get better, as ways to try things, as ways to try personnel. So, that plays a part in here too. We've really been concerned about ourselves and how we get better. We should improve.

"I mean, we should improve. We should improve as we go and I'm totally confident we will. I'm totally confident we have the players and I'm totally confident in what we're doing with them, that we'll have great success. I think (Punter) Sav (Rocca) has done a great job and so has (Kicker) Dave (Akers). That phase of the game is outstanding and it needs to be. Our punt coverage has really been good. So, that needs to be a real weapon for us, and it has been. And offensively, Dave needs to be the ultimate weapon, because every time he goes out there, he goes out there to score points, and he has. So, those two areas have been good. The other areas, we need to help the offense in the return game, we need to help the defense in the kick coverage. And that's our mission. Every time we go out, we have a mission to help the other phase of the game."

On whether he has been frustrated by the lane discipline on kick coverage: "Well, sometimes it's a lack of judgment. There are a couple concepts that the guy's have to deal with; they go around the block, they go around, and they can't keep in front leverage of the ball, then it's a mistake. It's no different than swinging high and the pitch is low. If they cross the guy's face and they can't get up the field and maintain the inside shoulder for us, then that's a mistake. So, we made some mistakes in judgment, and I think we just have to keep playing, keep prepping it, keep practicing fast. And we're practicing faster as we go. I don't know if you guys are at practice now, or not. But, anyway, we're practicing faster because early on a lot of our stuff we were just trying to make sure guys knew what to do and how to do it and who to block. And now they do.

"Now, we're pretty much running off of, we're pretty much running off of our stuff. I mean, we're just calling it and going, and that's it. There are still a few more things, like today we'll do sort of a walk through with the hands team, which we haven't spent a lot of time on, that kind of stuff. We're still kind of walking through, walking through some different things with our field goal block and our punt return versus different formations and fakes and things like that. So, a lot of that is still teaching. But, the main areas that normally happen, we're practicing faster. So, with that faster practice, as we get closer to the season, now they understand the concepts, and they just have to apply it at a faster rate. I think they'll accelerate, as well."

On whether his philosophy is to use players with better playmaking ability on punt returns and not kick returns: "Well, there's always that question, 'if a guy has a ball in his hands, and he needs to run to their goal line, should he be able to do it whether it's being kicked to him, or punted to him, or handed to him, or passed to him?' And I agree with that 100 percent. There is a little bit different dynamic in the relationship that the opponent has to you, in those two areas. And because of that, the super quick guy really needs to be the punt returner because the opponent gets on him quicker and in some cases on him so much that he has to forfeit the return, or take the chance of getting hit, where as a kick return is totally different.

"So, that's, if I could put it into as simple terms as possible, on a punt return, you like to get the kid that when he was in junior high and played 'Not It', he was never 'it', because he knew how to evade people in close proximity. The kick returner is more set up like a running play. The punt returner is a little bit helter skelter, not totally, but a little bit more where you rely on just a guy's quickness to beat initial defenders and then find (the lane); the kick return is more of a, you have time and the opponents not right on you, you have time to get back and set up a semblance of a running play. So, it's in general, better to have running backs to do that. What happens is you need to accelerate, you need to get up to the 20 (yard line) as fast as you can. So, a lot of the times you see that these receivers and corners are the better return guys in the kick return.

"But (the kick return) is more like a running play and you generally need a little bit bigger guy. You need a little bit bigger guy because it's a little more slug it out type run and the punt return is a little bit more bob-and-weave, if that makes sense. But, there is a difference and that's how I see the difference. And that's the way we apply it. But could (WR) DeSean (Jackson) be a kick return guy, of course he could. Like I said, anytime a guy has the ball in his hands, you know I used the analogy not long ago in the movie with Papale, they wanted to get Vince the ball, probably because he was the best guy. So, you always want the best guy having the ball in his hands."

On whether there are any rookies who are standing out on special teams: "Well, you know, the guy that has really played a lot better than maybe I perceived the way he played at practice has been (CB) Trevard Lindley. He's been really good. He's been good at the things he does good, like being in that fold position on the kickoff return. He's made some plays that if he didn't make them, we would really be talking about kickoff coverage. We wouldn't be talking about it a little bit, we'd only be talking about it. So, he's been very good. He's been very good playing outside on their gunners. So, he's been impressive. I'm impressed with him, but I'm impressed with a lot of those guys.

"I think (WR) Riley Cooper's, you know almost every guy we've drafted has played well, I mean, has really played well. They're learning all of the time and they're going to bite the bullet a little bit on some of this because some of these guys don't have a whole lot of experience playing. And then you get into the factor of when they did play, they were competing against guys, 18-21 (year olds). Now when they play, there's a possibility that they're competing against the best players in the world for a 10 year stretch. So, there's some heavy learning and heavy adjustments that they have to make. It's different, it's different, even if they have played, most of them haven't. So, they're still growing. But like I said before, it's my responsibility to cultivate them really fast and we will be."

On whether certain players are better game players than practice players and whether he reserves judgment for game time: "Yeah. I think really, the only time you can judge a special teams player is in a game, because that's the only time you're really making full speed contact. And if you can't judge a guy making full speed contact, then you really can't judge him. I mean, it would be like judging a fighter by how he works out at the gym. You don't know until he steps into the ring against an opponent who's really trying to hurt him. So, it's kind of like when I used to go to the track. I didn't know the horses, so I'd look and see which one I wanted to bet on. That's about what it's really like. Because it's full speed contact and the guys that can do that the best are going to be the best players."

On P Sav Rocca: "He's been fantastic. I mean, he's been a fantastic punter. He had a chance the other day, his numbers weren't that great. We cut-hand that play, I mean we're responsible for making it. It was kind of a quirky play. The guy signaled for a fair catch and then he muffed it and then we hit him and then it went awry and then the referee judged that we hit the ball. If we hit it first, then the fair catch signals off and then he picked it up and ran, you know, ran for 25 or 26 yards or whatever it was.

"That took off of his net, but he had a heck of a day and then we had a chance to down that one, which we didn't but it wasn't his fault. He had to hang the placement to get that done and I think he's punted really good. I think he's punted fantastic. Really, Ken Parrish punted fantastic and it was kind of a horse race there, but Sav was just so good. I think he'll have to continue, he'll have to keep his legs spry, he'll have to replenish his leg after games, after practices. You see him out there, he can punt."

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