The Eagles had a somewhat tough decision to make this year. They've got arguably the most dangerous punt return man in the league on their team, but he's also their #1 WR. But how much do they want to "risk" him on punt returns? While the team did bring in some guys to camp who could return punts, in the end they've settled on DeSean Jackson as their primary punt return man.
"Yeah, he's the primary guy as far as I'm concerned," said special teams coach Bobby April. "Last year we had a couple of other guys that could and did return punts. I think when he gets replaced in a game it will be coach Reid's decision that we need to give him a break right here, or I think he's gassed, or maybe DeSean will even express it that he's a little bit gassed or whatever. And that's how that takes place. I would think, I don't want to speak for coach Reid, but I would think he would have the opportunity when he feels it because he runs a lot of really deep routes on every play. And that's more what we were looking at a year ago when we could spell him. But we had more punt returners at that time that could spell him."
Jeremy Maclin will be the backup return man. I also wouldn't be terribly surprised to see someone brought in at some point this year to spell Jackson, especially later in the season. But this idea of using him as the primary punt returner is a risk/reward proposition. We've talked about it several times before and my feeling has always been that you should be going all out to win the game on every play. If you don't have DeSean Jackson returning a punt, you are not giving yourself the best chance to win. Plain and simple.
Now, if it's 34-10 in the 3rd quarter and the other team is punting, sure give DeSean a break... but in any meaningful situation, he should be the guy back there. Plus, according to April, he wants to do it.
"You know, not at all. I mean I don't know anything about the contract deal but he always wants the ball in his hands, he always wants the ball in his hands. And certainly he's had so much success over high school, college, and the NFL returning kicks, you know, that's really just a part of his play. I don't think it's any different than playing receiver. So we might make it a difference because of how we use him and how much running he's doing, of course he's very valuable to the offense and consequently valuable to our organization in how many plays he has and that type of thing. But he's never, I mean he's always wanted the ball, he's always wanted to be the returner, to do the returns."