DeSean: Punt Return Is Going To Be a Big Factor

When the Eagles moved to the special teams portion of practice today, a couple interesting names were back to field punts.

Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson joined Damaris Johnson as returners.

Jackson returned one punt last year for -3 yards. And in 2011, he struggled, averaging just 6.7 yards per return. But earlier in his career, Jackson was a weapon on special teams. He found the end zone four times on returns from 2008 to 2010

“Punt return is going to be a big factor,” Jackson said. “Kind of bring my niche back out there and help that punt return team. Not only that, just go out there and make plays, get that electrifying unit back, to be able to go out there and score touchdowns at any given time.”

Johnson handled punt return duties for the Eagles last year and improved as the season went on. Overall, he averaged 11.2 yards and a touchdown.

Jackson, though, sounded like he’s on the same page as Chip Kelly in terms of wanting another shot back there.

“He wanted me to be back there and me wanting to be back there myself,” Jackson said, when asked if he approached Kelly with the idea. “I think last year, being able to have Damaris come in here and take on that role helped me out a lot. But at the end of the day too, I still missed a lot of those opportunities where I was able to do things in the past where if it was a 20-yard run, 50-yard run, whatever… if it was a touchdown. I mean those were things that helped the offense out, and you really don’t realize it, but they help out a lot.”

According to Football Outsiders, the Eagles started drives on average at their own 25.19 yards line, 27th in the league. Part of that had to do with turnovers on offense, but clearly there’s room for improvement in the return game.

Maclin, meanwhile, has only returned 13 punts in his NFL career and did not do it at all last season. He’s averaged 5.8 yards per return, and his long is 27 yards.

“We’ll look at Mac back there,” Kelly said. “Again, it’s May, so we’re going to take a look at him and Damaris and DeSean and Nick Miller. Russell Shepard is a guy that’s returned punts before, one of the rookies out there. So we’ll get a bunch of those guys because you never know in a game, all of a sudden, two guys are hurt.

“When you’ve only got a 46-man roster, someone has got to go back there, and hopefully it’s someone that’s fielded punts before. He’s [Maclin] got some experience at it, but we’ll take a look at him. Does that mean he’s going to be our starting punt returner? I have absolutely no idea right now.”

INTRODUCING MARK BARKLEY

Before he spoke to reporters, running back LeSean McCoy jokingly mentioned a question he expected to be asked.

“So, uh, how did Mark Barkley look today?”

But McCoy wasn’t joking about Barkley’s first name. A reporter corrected him, and he said he legitimately thought the fourth-round pick’s name was Mark.

“Oh, is it Matt? I called him that [Mark] all day, he said nothing about it,” McCoy explained.

Update: Maybe McCoy was just messing around? Didn’t seem like it, but…

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