The best punt return man on the Eagles roster is DeSean Jackson. However, the Eagles punt return man is not DeSean Jackson.
This has obviously led to some questions.
If you have a weapon like Jackson and you choose to not to use him, are you really doing absolutely everything you can to maximize the potential of every play? On the flip side though, is risking Jackson (either in terms of injury or just fatigue) on returns worth the potential negative impact on the offense?
The winner of that debate this year and for most of last season has been the latter point. Jackson hasn't returned a kick and there's been no indication that he would. Until now.
"He's always ready to go. He's like a pinch hitter. He's ready to go. We just have to call his number," said Eagles special teams coach Bobby April yesterday. "Most of our punt [returns] have not been traditionally [field] punts, they've been up closer to the 50 yard line where you have to worry about a lot of things and you have to spread yourself a little bit thin... So there haven't been that many situations where we've called his number. The ones we've had they probably were a little bit earlier in the game. You never know. You may get your wish this week, you may get it in two weeks but I don't know. He's always ready to go."
April's point is that they could still use Jackson as a punt returner if the right situation presented itself, it just hasn't yet. However, if there is a high leverage situation where Jackson might get the ball around midfield and have a chance to do something with it, they'd put him in.
April says that his return against the Giants in the Miracle at the New Meadowlands was a perfect example.
"I mean he's always been a situational guy. He really kind of was a year ago. Even the one you're talking about against the Giants. He wasn't returning that game. He went in there. Chad Hall was our returner in that particular game. So he's always a possibility to use. Maybe that moment hasn't come up. Maybe we missed the opportunity to utilize that moment but it's not as obvious a situation as that one was. There was 18 seconds to go in the game. That's pretty obvious, let's call him in. Maybe there has been [situations] and we missed it and it went right over our heads. He's always on deck. He's always there, prepared there, to go. He doesn't catch as many punts as he did when he was the punt returner but he's still trained for it."
April noted that if Jackson is called in to punt return duty, it's Andy Reid making the call.
"In the times that we've done it and put him in, usually it's Coach Reid [that] will tell me he wants him in."
However, April will occasionally nudge Andy to see if he might want to use DeSean.
"Oh no. Not at all. I'll say, ‘What do you think about DeSean in this situation.' And he'll either agree or disagree. I've suggested it. Not often."