Despite special teams coordinator Bobby April's confidence in rookie punt returner Damaris Johnson, it was Mardy Gilyard who returned the bulk of punts in the team's last game against Detroit.
Gilyard returned two punts averaging 7.5 yards per return. DeSean Jackson was also deployed to return a punt in the second quarter, but that went for a loss of 3 yards. April explained that the decision to go with Gilyard over Johnson, who is averaging 6.0 yards per punt return this season, had to do with activating Riley Cooper for the first time this season. Cooper missed the first five games of the year recuperating from a Training Camp collarbone injury.
"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," April said. "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."
At this point, April said that he has not spoken with head coach Andy Reid about an expanded role for Jackson, who has averaged 10.5 yards per return and scored four punt return touchdowns in his career.
While it looks like Gilyard will return punts Sunday against the Falcons, April made it clear that Brandon Boykin is the kickoff returner.
"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," April said.
Boykin, also a rookie, is averaging 22.1 yards per kickoff return this season. With Cooper to help on blocking, he had a career-long 31-yard return in the Lions game.
Make sure to follow us on Twitter @EaglesInsider