Philadelphia Eagles News

Special Teams Coordinator Bobby April

On whether newly acquired LB Jason Williams can make a difference on special teams: "Well, I think he can, he's really talented. He's definitely got the ability to make plays. He's got the ability to run. He's a big guy: 240 (pounds), (and) can run like that. (I'm) surprised he was still out there really. Yeah, I think he can make plays. I think he definitely has the ability and he's got a track record of playing in the league and being a productive player on teams. He's got the experience. We've got a lot of work to do to try to catch him up on everything we want to get done assignment-wise, technique-wise, you can't do too much on that. He almost has to rely on his own background. Too much material to cover at this point but I think his assignments will be fine."

On whether preparation during the week can improve special teams or if what transpires on Sundays depends on each particular play: "I think a lot, everything, can be done to improve it. Monday and Tuesday we prepare for everything we're going to use, try to deploy, (where) we're going to align guys, (and) what strategy we're going to use. A lot can be done on Monday and Tuesday too by me. On Wednesday we try to implement the practice plan and hone it to where we can execute it. Saturday we just kind of have a walkthrough and film session. Not just (small preparations) because you don't want to get outworked in the last 48 hours in terms of  your focus and watching it and playing it in your mind. That's part of the practice. That's part of everything. We talked about this last week. You've got to have talent to play in this league. But every team does so what you do with that talent is really what you're doing during the week."

On whether there are changes to how practice is conducted to improve special teams: "We've done a couple things different in practice. We've changed a few things up to highlight things I thought we were weak at. We've done a couple things to highlight some of our weaknesses. So yeah we've changed up a little bit. Our structure is pretty much the same. We have the same timeframe. We have the same meeting frame. We are trying to overcome some of our weaknesses and we're highlighting those in our practice a little more than overall game assignment."

On whether LB Akeem Jordan is going to be reinserted as a starter on special teams after returning from injury: "Well having him back will be big. He's a good player. He's been a good player for us. We'll have him in all four areas. Even though he'll be starting he's one of those guys, because he's not in some of those substitution packages, he doesn't play in as many plays as (LB) DeMeco Ryans. We want to use that talent on those other plays so I'll have him on all four phases. It's a big plus because he's a really good player. Really experienced. Knows what he's doing. He'll be a big plus for us."

On whether this is a good game for the Eagles to get out of their slump because of the Lions' struggling special teams unit: "I could see where somebody might think that. All I can say is it doesn't matter who we're playing. We're just trying to do the absolute best we can. You never want to play a game more concerned about the opponent than you are yourself. So whatever they do we'll try to take advantage of. Hopefully we will. They're no different than playing whoever we play, whoever we played last week or the week before in terms of we're just focused on us executing the plan. What we do and what they do, we'll have a strategy for what they do to try to take advantage of their weaknesses and stay away from their strengths. I watch them on film. I know they're really well coached. I know of a lot of guys on that staff. I know the special teams coach. I know a lot of the players. In fact, I had a couple of them in Buffalo. They're good so we better be at 100 percent this game, the next game, and the next game. The opponent really doesn't matter. We need to try to reach the summit in our play as early and as often as possible regardless of who the opponent is. But I think that returner is very good. The punter is good. The kicker is good. We've got our hands full. We absolutely have our hands full."

On whether P Mat McBriar is completely healthy due to some inconsistency: "I would say, the injury part, I don't know that much about. I'd have to go ask our trainers or our doctors about where he's at. He's certainly 100 percent cleared and healthy. Now did that sidetrack him a little bit from his normal offseason? I think when we had him in camp, it's his plant foot, (and) I think he was a little out of balance. I think he was a little bit unstable and that caused some of his inconsistency. I think there's a chance he is nurturing himself back into his old form (because) he is certainly not punting it the best he's ever punted. Our goal last week was to take (WR) Antonio Brown out of the game. That's what the punt team's assignment. That was their mission. When this game is over, Antonio Brown is a nonfactor. And that mission was accomplished. Now it wasn't necessarily accomplished every conceivable way that you want everything to be done perfectly but that was the number one goal. He ended up with seven yards and we netted 36 or 37. We had a touchback that I'd like not to get. We had a plus-50 punt that I'd like to get a little closer. Again, our main goal when that game is over Antonio Brown is a nonfactor in this game and he really was a nonfactor."

On whether WR Riley Cooper will work his way back onto the special teams unit now that he is healthy: "I think so. We still have some deliberations and the head coach has got to make some decisions on the dress squad. Riley hasn't been dressing. He's working in practice. He's been working in practice but he also hasn't played full speed in, I don't know, how long is the injury, 12 weeks (or) 11 weeks? It's somewhere in there. It happened early in camp. That's why he's the head coach. (It's) one guy that's got to make the decisions for the whole team. Not just your pet area gets this, okay I want to take care of you. All he cares about is winning the game. We'll see what he decides on that. But he's working and if he dresses he'll play because we're working every possible situation for him."

On why the team hasn't used WR DeSean Jackson in close games or critical spots to return punts: "He's always ready to go. He's like a pinch hitter. He's ready to go. We just have to call his number. Most of our punt (returns) have not been traditionally (field) punts, they've been up closer to the 50 yard line where you have to worry about a lot of things and you have to spread yourself a little bit thin. It's tough to make an all out concentration on the punt return in that phase of the game. And then the punter only has to kick it 35 or 40 (yards). He actually doesn't want to kick it any more than that. So there haven't been that many situations where we've called his number. The ones we've had they probably were a little bit earlier in the game. You never know. You may get your wish this week, you may get it in two weeks but I don't know. He's always ready to go."

On whether WR Damaris Johnson might get looks as a kick returner since he was so prolific in college: "Well you know he is back there as a backup to (CB Brandon) Boykin. We think Boykin is a little bit ahead of him at this point. Granted we haven't been productive in either one so my defense of those two guys statistically is not very strong. We have a lot of faith in them. I have a lot of faith in them. And I believe a little better calculation on how we deploy ourselves and where we concentrate our forces may be a little greater anticipation of some things. I think these guys' talent will shine."

On whether there is talk internally that Jackson might be the punt returner: "I mean he's always been a situational guy. He really kind of was a year ago. Even the one you're talking about against the Giants. He wasn't returning that game. He went in there. Chad Hall was our returner in that particular game. So he's always a possibility to use. Maybe that moment hasn't come up. Maybe we missed the opportunity to utilize that moment but it's not as obvious a situation as that one was. There was 18 seconds to go in the game. That's pretty obvious, let's call him in. Maybe there has been (situations) and we missed it and it went right over our heads. He's always on deck. He's always there, prepared there, to go. He doesn't catch as many punts as he did when he was the punt returner but he's still trained for it."

On what the process is to determine when Jackson will be put in as a punt returner: "In the times that we've done it and put him in, usually it's Coach Reid (that) will tell me he wants him in. The one against New York, actually he had two call ins against New York. The one that he returned for a touchdown and the one where right before (halftime) they say he stepped out of bounds. I still think he didn't step out of bounds but I could never really see it on the coaching film. So he had two big ones that way and then right before half. On those two occasions Coach Reid sent him in."

On whether it is off limits to suggest to Reid during the game that Jackson should be put in: "Oh no. Not at all. I'll say, 'What do you think about DeSean in this situation.' And he'll either agree or disagree. I've suggested it. Not often. I think he's got a pretty good feel of that. Most of the time I'd rather not talk to him during the game unless there is something specific I need to talk about. That is certainly something specific because he's on the phones with everybody. I'm not on the phones with him. I go to him face to face."

On whether Johnson or Boykin are close to breaking a big return based on their progression so far: "Well close to breaking one, probably not. Again you've got a good argument and I don't have much defense statistically but I do believe in the guys. I think Damaris has matured as a guy back there. I think he's making sound decisions. He's catching the ball. On the other end for Brandon, I think he's doing something similar to what he did in college. Very similar and we had hopes that he'd be our returner and he is. I think the blocking and our timing and our setting the formation properly has been more of a factor than his innate ability. I think we're improving by increments. There needs to be greater increments of improvement. I do think there is improvement. I think the arrow is pointing in the right direction."

On whether everything is fixable so there may be some return touchdowns on the horizon: "Oh yeah, they can break one at any time. Those plays are like a thunderstorm. The ingredients kind of need to be in the right place and they'll break. You never know when they're going to be. Obviously the greater your team is honed in there together you have a greater chance of those ingredients being right. I certainly think they'll break one. I think though it's a slow progression it needs to be intensified at a more rapid pace of improvement. I definitely think as we go you'll continue to see improvement. If you haven't seen any I think there is some. I'm optimistic about it. I'm really optimistic about it and I like our guys. I like all (of them). I like our blockers. I have to do a better job and we'll get it going and be a factor because in all of these games field position is critical. It seems like especially for our team. Four games within two points, that's unbelievable. Everything counts. Every play counts. That's really how we try to approach it and hopefully we live that out, that we've taken advantage of every play, at least in effort and in focus and in everything else. Somebody else can beat you but they can't stop you from doing the absolute best you can do in that moment. That's what we're striving for."

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