Philadelphia Eagles’ special teams coordinator Bobby April announced Thursday the two frontrunners for the return team.
Undrafted free agent Damaris Johnson will be the punt returner, and 4th-round draft pick Brandon Boykins will be the first-team kick returner.
Johnson is a wide receiver from Tulsa who has set NCAA records for total kick return yards and all-purpose yards.
Boykins has been a highly praised 4th-round pick who won the Paul Hornung Award at Georgia as the most versatile player in the NCAA.
Replacing the kick returner comes as a relief, Dion Lewis struggled at the position, and it was never much of a threat.
However, it seems April is hinting the end of Desean Jackson’s punt return tenure. No Eagles’ fan will forget the magical 65-yard punt return against the New York Giants. But last season’s fumble and poor returns overshadow any wizardry power Jackson might have.
Also, releasing him from extraneous responsibilities helps Jackson focus more with his new contract on his wide receiver position.
New faces give Philadelphia new fire, and we need the potential they carry.
April said he could see a player making the team as a primary kick returner.
With Johnson most likely never ever sneaking into the starting lineup, he will probably fill this specialty position. Boykins will fight Joselio Hanson for the nickelback spot, but Hanson has quite a few years on Boykins. If Boykins shows maturity beyond his playing years, he’ll take the spot, but it’s Hanson’s to lose.
Moreover, the trade with the Indianapolis Colts brings in another corner who will fight to play. Boykins might be able to find his most reps near the 5-yard line.
I used to think the punt returner or kick returner position was designated for that running back, corner back or wide receiver who just missed the cut but was pretty fast, and they had little to no effect on the game. Devin Hester reworked the position, except I saw him as one of those “one in a million” players.
But no need to look further than the San Francisco 49ers’ postseason to see what special teams really provides for a football team as a whole.
“The punt return is critical because the judgments they make are going to affect the offense and the defense,” Hill said.
Field position means the world to quick strike offenses like ourselves, and misjudgments lead to defending the football on your own 15-yard line.
Mistakes, fumbles, bad decisions happen, but the more the Eagles entitle someone to a certain position, the more of a successful influence that player will have.
Thus, if the Birds entitle someone to each return position, I think we will see a return team with exponential potential.
The only issue I see is entrusting these rookies with critical positions. Hopefully pre-season and training camp will shake all the butterflies from them. We need a tight, crisp, fluent Philadelphia Eagles to compete for a Super Bowl.