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Eagles training camp position preview: special teams.
Philadelphia Eagles training camp is right around the corner! Players are scheduled to report to the NovaCare Complex on July 27. 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 the special teams unit. Previously: Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | Offensive line | Defensive line | Linebacker | Secondary.
It’s not yet clear who will primarily return punts for the Eagles this season. Greg Ward led the team in attempts last year but that shouldn’t happen again. His 6.4 average ranked just 14th out of 16 qualified returners. Ward’s career average on 28 returns is 5.6. He’s sure-handed but just not a threat to make anything special happen.
The hope here is that the Eagles’ coaching staff makes more of a concerted effort to get Reagor involved on punt returns. He was a weapon in that regard at TCU with 23 returns for a 17.8 average and two touchdowns. Several members of the Eagles actually cited his return ability as part of why they were excited about drafting him. Reagor had a 73-yard touchdown return against the Packers last year. Outside of that long one, he had three attempts for 21 yards. On his part, he needs to prove he can field punts without dropping them. Reagor is young and unproven enough that he shouldn’t be above punt return duty.
Michael Walker is likely a camp body but he might be able to convince the Eagles to keep him around if his college returning chops carry over to the NFL. The Boston College alumnus had logged a 13.3 average and one touchdown on 48 college returns.
Boston Scott could be the favorite here given he was the primary return last year. But the Eagles should really be looking to try someone else at this spot. Scott’s career average on 42 kick returns is only 21.8. For perspective, that number would’ve ranked 12th out of 13 qualified returns last season (which Scott actually did).
Jason Huntley could be a player to watch here. The 2020 fifth-round pick logged 25.8 yards per kick return and FIVE touchdowns in college. Perhaps Huntley could convince the Eagles to keep five running backs.
Jake Elliott will be more closely monitored in camp than ever this year after having the worst season of his career in 2020. The Eagles could conceivably cut him if he really struggles this summer. I’m not anticipating that to happen but he needs to step up to avoid such an outcome.
With Cam Johnston leaving in free agency, there was thought the Eagles would bring in another punter to challenge Arryn Siposs. To this point, they have not done that. Siposs is still facing competition in the sense that the Eagles will be monitoring alternatives if he’s not up to snuff. The thinking here, however, is that there’s reason to be optimistic about Siposs’s outlook. He was said to be “neck-and-neck” with Jack Fox — arguably the best punter in the NFL — during training camp last year. The Detroit Lions liked him enough to keep him on their practice squad for most of their 2020 campaign.
Rick Lovato is entering his fifth training camp with the Eagles. The 28-year-old is signed through the 2023 season.
SPECIAL TEAMS COVERAGE
Craig James, Alex Singleton, T.J. Edwards, Shaun Bradley, Richard Rodgers, and Andrew Adams are contenders to be the Eagles’ biggest special team contributors. We’ll see if any of the young players can step up and earn a roster spot by standing out on the third phase.
HOW WILL IT PLAY OUT?
It’s been too long since the Eagles’ special teams unit has been a legitimate strength. It’d be nice to see that change. 29-year-old Michael Clay, the youngest coordinator in the entire NFL, has a challenge ahead of him. The checklist includes:
Identifying a new kick returner.
Identifying a new punt returner.
Identifying the best coverage options.
Getting Elliott back on track.
Finding an answer at punter.