Philadelphia Eagles News

Special Teams Coordinator Bobby April

On how the return game is shaping up: "There's three guys who have some experience returning. The guys that have the most amount of NFL experience would be (WR) Chad Hall, (WR) Johnnie Lee Higgins has the absolute most and has had the most success in the past. (WR) Sinorice Moss is in there. At this time, we have those guys as the top three who will be competing for the position. Without (WR) DeSean (Jackson) in there, those would be the guys. There are other guys trying to get in there right now, but those will be the top three guys unless something changes, which it possibly could because we have other guys, (RB) Derrick Locke, (RB) Graig Cooper, that could do the job.

"It's been tough because we haven't had any returns or punt returns either. It's kind of a different preseason. With the new rule, that's to be expected. Although the first week, we saw that there were 70 percent returned throughout the league. It wasn't that way with our team, but that's what it was throughout the league. I don't know what it was this week because some games were played last night and there's one or two tonight and Monday. I'm trying to find out where it's at, and our guys are kicking touchbacks, too. It's been tougher to evaluate the return game and the coverage game. It is what it is, but it's a tougher evaluation."

On whether the lack of a return game makes it tougher to evaluate who makes the team due to special teams involvement: "I don't know. You can still evaluate them, but you can't evaluate them as well. That's an aberration really because the rule is going to affect up to 40 percent of the kickoffs that will be touchbacks. That's 60 percent kickoff return percentage, but it won't be like our games. Two teams that have returned two and three in two games, and there haven't been any punt returns. In statistics, our two games would be an outlier. It has been tougher to evaluate because if guys go down and they don't have to make a play on the ball, you can't evaluate the part that really counts."

On how that will affect how rosters are shaped around the league: "I don't know. Most of the guys that play on kickoff and kickoff return play on the other phases. I think you'll see as the season goes, you'll still be returning 65% of the kicks. As it goes later into the season and in the postseason, you'll see more. I think it's obviously critically important to have the best guys on the field, but I don't know how it will affect things. You keep the best guys that can play on teams, and if guys are less of a player but they play better on special teams, then the guys that are ahead of them are not mentally or physically putting out the effort to be good on teams. If A is better than B, and B is a better special teams player, than why is he not a better defensive player? Because B gives it up in one area and doesn't in another. It's kind of an insult to a player if his backup is a better special teams player than him. He's going to fight on every play, and you're only fighting on selected plays. I don't get that part of it. I know it exists, but it's hard for me because I'm involved in it every day.

"If you don't give it all on special teams, that means you're willing to forfeit a play to the opponent. I can't click with that, and I have a hard time understanding why that would happen. It's hard for me. Here's a guy, and I don't care where he's drafted or how highly he was recruited, if he goes to the field and plays better, that's it. That's what I'll say. There is other parts than to just evaluating special teams. The head coach is only concerned about one thing and that's winning the game. He doesn't have a pet area. So when he makes decisions, he makes decisions in the best interest of what it takes to win. That's what I agree with, but I do offer my opinion on other areas. How it will all play out in how it affects personality, I don't even bother with it. I know it's a long answer for something I don't bother with but I just tell them, 'Here's what I think,' and we go. It's a big picture, and I just contribute to my area and every coach has that agenda that you need your area to be good, and I understand that, too."

On whether K Alex Henery has improved accuracy since training began after the Pittsburgh game: "He kicked a lot better yesterday. That Bethlehem field is not the best, but that's not a bad place to train on. I've seen worse fields, not so much lately, but when I first came in the league they still had a lot of baseball/football stadiums going and old surfaces. In 20 years, those surfaces has gotten a lot better. The grounds keeping, everything has gotten so much better. The great kickers of the past, they couldn't play because their percentage wasn't high enough. They had to battle a lot tougher conditions. I think it's good training for a guy. I think for every guy coming into the league, there should be a grapes of wrath period because not just everything is laid out perfectly for you. I think it's really good that he trained there."

On whether kick returners will be more willing to return kicks that they catch in the end zone because of the new rule: "I think you'll be seeing a lot of that. The other day we returned one that was nine yards (deep in the end zone). I know the opening kick by Washington against the Steelers was brought out from nine yards. You're definitely going to see people taking a shot, and that's a big gamble because there is a real opportunity to tackle them inside the 20. You don't want to be too stubborn. I think there comes a point where it's a little bit like waving the white flag when you take a knee. You say, 'You won this one, but I'm okay with it.' I think that ruffles people the wrong way, and people just on their competitiveness that say, 'I might lose this battle but I'm not taking this.' I'm pretty positive that people will start to have that mentality because people have started to bring them out deeper than ever before this preseason. I don't think that'll change. The mentality might change a little bit, knowing that it's a foolish decision but people will always think, 'I need to get this.'"

On how good S Colt Anderson was on special teams last season: "He was fantastic. He came in, and the greatest tribute you can give to Colt is the one that the team gave to him. He played in eight games, and wasn't here for the offseason or training camp, and they named him captain. That speaks volumes as to what kind of respect he brought out. He came in and he gave us a lift, too. You have to be a tough, young scrapper to play on special teams and I've said it before but you're not as rewarded as you are in other areas. You sometimes get to that, 'I have to do this' stage but when he came in, he was like, 'I get to do this,' and he lit a fire. He showed what tenacity can do, and he was making plays even after they knew about him.

"He made two great plays in that Green Bay playoff game that go unnoticed to a degree but on our first punt, and he went down, blocked the ball and caused a turnover. He put his heels right into the ball and we got the ball past midfield on our first possession, I think it was past the fifty. In the end, one other time in there, he made a great save and made their offense start on the two-yard line. I don't think anyone else could've gotten there. He ran down there and batted the ball out right before it went into the end zone. Just in that game he played well, and he's made some outstanding plays besides just the coverage plays you see. Some of his blocking, too. For a smaller guy, man, he's a good player."

On whether RB Ronnie Brown can return kicks: "We're going to try him. We have to see how much he really wants to do it. You have to want to do that and you can't take just a passing interest in it and be somewhat interested. You have to really want to do it. Anybody who has running backs skills can pretty much run the kick returns. Punt returns are a little different because they're so hard to catch. They're really not like a running play because a formation isn't set up in front of you and you're following a pattern. It's a little tougher because everyone is up at the line of scrimmage and they're running at you. That's not what a running back does because he never sees that formation develop. He just has to have that awareness."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.
Advertising