The Eagles were downright terrible on the kick coverage Sunday night against the Giants making returner, David Wilson, look a lot like Deon Sanders on ‘prime time’ television. He averaged 36.2 yards on 6 returns for 217 yards, which gave the Giants great field position to start their drives.
Fortunately the Eagles defense was able to play well enough despite the continuous hole they were put into. After it was all said and done, they were able to prevail 19-17, but a strange turn of events happened today after Andy Reid watched the game film.
Linebacker Brian Rolle was cut for his apparent poor performance on the kick coverage team. Rolle started the last 13 games at weak side LB last season after showing a lot of toughness and coverage skills. At 5’10″, he was a sixth round draft pick out of Ohio State, who took over after the higher drafted Casey Matthews couldn’t handle the job. He lost his starting job after the third preseason game and was moved to special teams.
But looking a little closer at the Eagles’ special teams stats thus far, I think the wrong guy’s head rolled, so to speak. Out of the 32 teams in the NFL, they rank 29th in kickoff coverage and 24th in punt coverage. They’re even worse on kickoff and punt returns, ranking 31st with rookie Brandon Boykin unable to break through. The man responsible for this mess is special teams coach, Bobby April. He’s been on the staff since ’10 and other than some dynamic returns by DeSean Jackson, the special teams haven’t been all that special. Other than his first season, the former special teams coach of the year in ’04 and ’08, teams have regressed ever since. The punt and kick off return teams were in the bottom 5 last season and punter Chas Henry was cut for his erratic performance a couple of weeks ago.
Kicker Alex Henery has done well on field goal conversions but does not have the leg to reach the end zone on kickoffs, hence the lack of touchbacks and the propensity for huge returns. Knowing this, April’s job is to devise a scheme to limit the returns, something thus far, he’s been incapable of.
I just don’t quite get why the Eagles would release a capable backup LB and bring back a guy who got cut already after training camp. Adrian Moten was re-signed to replace Rolle and at 6’2″, he’s taller than Rolle, but obviously wasn’t able to win a spot on the roster. The undrafted free agent from Maryland, has already been cut by the Colts and Seahawks, so I have to be convinced he’s a better alternative than Rolle.
Otherwise, unless Moten can make a huge difference on the coverage teams this week against a speedy Pittsburgh Steelers return game, we may be looking at more of what the Giants were able to do. And sooner or later it’ll cost the Eagles a game and then April’s head should roll.