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Don’t sleep on the Eagles’ special teams unit

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Eagles training camp position preview: special teams.

NCAA Football: Texas Christian at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles training camp is right around the corner ... maybe? Players are currently scheduled to report to the NovaCare Complex on July 28. As we count down the days together, Bleeding Green Nation will be previewing every position on the Eagles’ roster. We conclude today by taking a look at special teams. Previously: Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | Offensive line | Defensive end | Defensive tackle | Linebacker | Cornerback | Safety.

THE ROLES

PUNT RETURNER

It’s been a minute since the Eagles have employed a dangerous return man. Darren Sproles posted some good numbers earlier in his Philly career but he was hampered by injuries the past three years. Now, for the first time since 2013, the Eagles will be entering a season without Sproles as their primary punt returner.

Jalen Reagor seems poised to be the Eagles’ new punt return man. The TCU product proved more than capable at the college level with 23 returns for 409 yards and two touchdowns. To put Reagor’s whopping 17.8 average in perspective, consider that Diontae Johnson led the NFL last year with 12.4 yards per return. Give Reagor some daylight and he’s gone.

The kid can scoot. Reagor could be a legitimate weapon for the Eagles’ special teams unit. It’ll just be interesting to see how much responsibility they give him the first-round rookie here in addition to learning the offense.

Elsewhere on the roster, 33-year-old DeSean Jackson isn’t going to be a full-time returner but he could reprise that role if the Eagles need a spark and Reagor isn’t already lighting things up. Note that Jackson has only returned eight punts since 2014.

Quez Watkins, Marcus Green, and Grayland Arnold all have college punt returning experience but none of them are 100% locks to make the roster.

Greg Ward fits the Reno Mahe mold of a punt returner who can be relied on to at least fair catch the ball properly.

KICK RETURNER

Boston Scott finished the 2019 season as the Eagles’ primary kick returner after Miles Sanders grew out of the role. Scott’s 22.9 average on 10 returns was nothing special. The Eagles could look to do better there.

John Hightower could be the favorite to land the job. The Boise State product scored a touchdown and averaged 23.3 yards on 36 college returns.

The aforementioned Reagor boasts kick return experience in addition to punt return experience. His 24.2 average beats Hightower’s mark but asking Reagor to return kicks, punts, AND play on offense could be too much of a burden.

Tremon Smith has a 25.8 career average. It’s hard to imagine the Eagles keeping a designated kick return guy so he’ll also have to stand out at cornerback.

Adrian Killins logged 47 college kick returns for only a 21.8 average. The speedster doesn’t have any punt return experience.

KICKER

Jake Elliott has shown slight improvement each year and he’s obviously come up big in clutch situations. The 25-year-old is under contract through the 2024 season. Just keep doing your thing, Jake.

PUNTER

Cameron Johnston is set to be a restricted free agent after the 2020 season. The Eagles will eventually look to sign him to a long-term deal if he continues to punt well. Johnston also serves as the Eagles’ holder for field goal and extra point attempts.

LONG SNAPPER

Rick Lovato was actually named to the Pro Bowl earlier this year. He’s signed through 2023.

SPECIAL TEAMS COVERAGE

The Eagles notably promoted Duke Riley to special teams captain after placing Kamu Grugier-Hill on injured reserve late last season. He could retain that role in 2020.

Other key coverage contributors could include T.J. Edwards, Craig James, Alex Singleton, Cre’Von LeBlanc, Joe Ostman, Corey Clement, K’Von Wallace, and Josh Perkins. Of course, not all of those players are necessarily locks to make the 53-man. Some roster spots will be won/lost this summer based on special teams performance.

HOW WILL IT PLAY OUT?

Reagor seems bound to be the punt returner. Hightower could be the kick returner but that’s less certain than Reagor’s outlook. Either way, it’s good to see the Eagles have made some effort to improve their returning units. It’d be nice to see special teams help out the offense a little more than they have in recent years.

Elliott, Johnston, and Lovato are all running unopposed at their positions.

Poll

On a scale of 1-5, what’s your confidence level in the Eagles’ special teams unit? (5 being the most.)

This poll is closed

  • 24%
    5
    (299 votes)
  • 60%
    4
    (746 votes)
  • 13%
    3
    (161 votes)
  • 0%
    2
    (11 votes)
  • 0%
    1
    (6 votes)
1223 votes total Vote Now