Philadelphia Eagles News

Special Teams Coordinator Bobby April



On whether the primary punt returner will be WR Mardy Gilyard going forward instead of WR Damaris Johnson: "It's a coaching decision but I think it had more to do with moving (WR) Riley Cooper up. He's got to figure out how to use the personnel. You can only use so many guys. I'm happy with Damaris. I said it in here (numerous) times and I can't back it up with any statistical proof but I think he's doing and has done a good job. The lack of productivity on his end, I don't think is on him. The fumble (against Arizona), that was a bad play. The other stuff I think he will hit it up in there. I think he's tough, I think he makes guys miss, and for the most part he's made some pretty good decisions, especially for a rookie."

On whether it is fair to say that Gilyard made more sound decisions as a returner compared to Johnson: "I don't think so. I think Mardy did a good job. I think he did a very good job. He knocked the ball up the field when he could. I think Damaris made good decisions. I think Mardy made good decisions. I think we as a unit and me as a coach have to do a better job and provide them with greater opportunities."

On whether he will change personnel on kickoff returns: "(CB Brandon) Boykin will be our starter unless from now until Sunday Coach (Reid) changes something. Boykin is the returner and we've got some other guys who can return. Mardy can return. Bryce Brown, who has never returned, has been working back there a lot at practice and he's getting better and better as we go too and he's a pretty good running back. We have some good guys. We have to do a better job blocking, do a better job about being wise about how we deploy our guys against their guys, and I think some opportunities will happen for him."

On whether any starting players on offense or defense will get more time on special teams: "Well not anymore than the guys we already have. We do have some guys starting. None on the kickoff coverage. And on the punt team we have (S) Nate Allen who is a critical guy for us. Plays the wing which is a really tough position. And we have (S) Kurt Coleman who plays the fullback position which is absolutely critical, (and) would be next to the snapper who's first and then the punter is next and then that guy would be next. So we have our two safeties (who) are playing in there.

"(LB) Akeem (Jordan) starts so we've got three starters on the punt team. I get your question. We have to get better in that phase but at this point we're not putting any of the defensive linemen on there. The other two guys would be (LB) DeMeco (Ryans) and (LB) Mychal Kendricks and we haven't decided to use them. And then the two corners, (CB) Nnamdi (Asomugha) and (CB) Dominique (Rodgers-Cromartie), we're not going to use them on that."

On how many of the special teams players are doing it for the first time professionally or prior to reaching the NFL: "Boy I'd have to get out the depth chart. We've got a few. Three or four."

On whether it is normal for a team to have so many guys unaccustomed to playing special teams: "I don't even know if we have three or four. (RB) Bryce Brown (and) (RB Chris) Polk, they're an exception because they've never played on those units. A lot of times you have a rookie in there that'll play but he's played defense. He's used to tackling. It's tough when you get the offensive guys that have never played it. There's a period (that) takes them a while. But I will say this about running backs, if you can weather the storm, if a running back has the inner grit, if he's got that true character of a competitor, (then) I've seen them be the best special teams players because they've got everything. They're tough, they can run, they've got good judgment in space, (and) it's tough to get those guys who have that kind of attitude about covering a kick. So it's rare. They have it right now, they just don't have the experience. Can they sustain it? I don't know."

On whether Gilyard will continue to be the primary punt returner: "Well I don't think Coach has finalized the dress list. If he does, he and I'd have to discuss who would be the punt returner. We haven't discussed that at this point."

On what dictates when WR DeSean Jackson is put in the punt return role: "Well that was a play coming up towards the end of the half. They were backed up, we knew we were going to get at least a ball that would be kicked with some distance, and I'm repeating myself, I go to (Coach Reid) or he comes to me or whatever but mostly almost always he comes to me and says let's put him in there. That was one of those cases. He thought maybe he could hit a home run. He's a pinch hitter and that was the case in that situation. I can't remember the exact time. I think there was two-something, late first half, and they were backed up at the 27 (yard line) or somewhere in there and you weren't going to get just a punt for just hang and short distance, you were going to get something and it didn't work out."

On what is going on with the blocking on the return units that is hindering the returners from finding lanes to run through: "I hate to tell the truth but I have to. Most of the time the guy that takes you out of the return is the punter. If he lines one down there 50 yards with under four seconds (of hang time), you have a chance to return it. If he hangs one up the time allows the coverage to get down there. It's our responsibility to affect that guy. We don't want him hitting free throws. We don't want him hitting the free throw. That's the primary reason. The next reason that we have allowed guys to get down there is we just have not done a good enough job fundamentally at teaching guys when the bell rings and you come out of this corner, and he comes out of this corner, you've got to whoop him.

"No matter how you draw the lines, eventually they're going to intersect and we've got to dominate that line. So we misjudged some of the fundamental stuff we did. We weren't as fundamentally sound as we should have been going into the season and we're trying with every effort to recapture our ability to whoop the guy one-on-one through technique and fundamentals. I think our guys are good enough. I know they're good enough. I like the way they play emotionally. I like everything about them. I just have to do a better job of getting them more fundamentally sound than the other guy."

On what it's like to see a coordinator on the team dismissed: "Anytime the other team has the ball and they're trying to push it across a line, that's the game and it's as simple as that. And they have the ball and you're representing the other team you're a defensive coach, you're a defensive player, everything is defense. Now we've worked into a culture of specifics where this is this and this is (that) but the bottom line is that they got the ball no matter (whether) it's kicked to them, handed to them, passed to them, snapped to them, (then) they're ultimate goal is to get across a line.

"All the other players on the other side are to stop him from getting across the other line. So if a defensive coach gets let go (then) I've got a great responsibility to that because we play a lot of defensive plays where when the other team has the ball in their hands it's my responsibility to make the players on our team limit their ability to push it towards our goal line. We haven't really done that in our coverage. I feel a great responsibility for how the defense plays. I certainly don't feel good about that. Not questioning it because ultimately the head coach makes every decision that's best for the team. I don't feel good about it from that sense. There is an absolute responsibility."

On whether he questioned his own job security during the bye week: "I really wasn't thinking about that. I was thinking about any and every way I could get our team better. I think as a coach every day in coaching is a good day. There are just certain kinds of good days that are better than the other good days. But this is a great job. This is a great profession. Things like that happen but every day is a good day. There's just better good days on some days than others. This is a tremendous profession. This is an unbelievable profession. Everybody that's in it is really blessed.

"You know going in that you walk the plank, so to speak. Every day it doesn't matter because any given thing can happen in a football game. Anything can happen. You're held accountable for everything that happens. So you know you walk the plank but it's just part of the job really. It's like Hyman Roth told Michael Corleone, 'This is the business we choose.' Okay? So you know that. You know that. You don't like it but I didn't come here to not want to be here."

On whether Castillo's dismissal intensified the need to evaluate the special teams units: "Boy I'd love to say, 'Ah man I was worried like crazy.' But I just wasn't. I'm worried about what we have to do. I've said in here about our players that every day I want us to push the envelope. Wherever we're at, let's push the envelope and let's get better. If we're a pint, let's try and become a quart. If we're a quart, let's try and become a gallon. If we're a 55-gallon drum, and we're six gallons, well we're not doing very good. We're not living up to the gifts we've been blessed with. Try to maximize them and whatever happens, it happens. But you've got to just try and maximize them. You've got to just give your best and that's what I try to encourage the players to do.

"I think deliberating on that kind of stuff would only hinder your ability to get better. I said in here a couple of weeks ago (and) maybe nobody caught the quote, but somebody asked me about (LB) Brian Rolle, and I said, 'You don't want too much security in this business. Too much security is a hindrance to improvement.' I've seen it so many times with so many people that they have a false sense of security because there really is no security. They have a false sense and I certainly wouldn't want, with what I've experienced, to develop a false sense that I ever haven't made."

On whether Jackson is a candidate for an expanded role as punt returner: "He could be. At this point Coach and I haven't talked about his role being any different than it is right now. But we know he can hit a home run at any time. He had that three yard loss which obviously that's not what we want. That's not what he wants but he is a dynamic talent in space and I could see it increasing at any point."

On what insight he can give on defensive quality control coach Bobby April III's role on the coaching staff: "I'd rather (defensive coordinator) Todd (Bowles) and Coach Reid answer that question. I mean I work with him but he's my son. I'm partial to him. I think he's the greatest. I think he's better than (Vince) Lombardi (joking). So they really have to answer that. I can't answer that."

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