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.”


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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  • cliff henny

    hope barkley replied, “how about you stop carrying the ball like a loaf of bread, LaSteve”. love shady, but damn man, tuck that ball away

    • theycallmerob

      Only 9 fumbles in his career, across 835 carries and 220 receptions….or 1 every 117 touches. I can live with that, so long as he keeps producing like he does.

      • cliff henny

        yeah, really is amazing how little he fumbles for the way he carries it. he does have a knack for tucking it away before he gets hit. maybe he hears me from SC, cause i yell loud enough when someone is closing in

        • nicksaenz1

          his ears probably ring very loudly when he’s close to getting hit

      • nicksaenz1

        man, 1/5 of the touches and brown has 4? better tighten that up real quick

  • Damien

    46 man roster? Hope that was a typo. That’s small.

    • CJ

      That’s reality on game days. You can only dress 46.

      • GEagle

        Has it always been 46? 3 QBs, P,PK,Long snap…so only 40 players left?

        • Adam

          You don’t dress 3 QBs on game day.

        • cliff henny

          for long time it was 45, and 46th could be 3rd emergency QB. just did away w/ emergency part, it’s 46 now. reality is get 9-10 backups each side, that’s it. searched google for reason, but couldnt find one

  • DunedinEagle

    Let’s see Jackson is basically in a contract year so forget him going all out. Maclin has proven he is not an NFL caliber returner back in his first season and Johnson has looked unspectacular at best. Let’s hope the PR is somewhere else on the roster like that DB from Oregon state perhaps.

    • Adam

      Not a contract year in the context you are using it. This isn’t a case like his last “contract year” when he was making chump change and risky injury with very little money guaranteed, thus trying to protect himself. This is a case where if he wants to continue earning the big money he has been on his new deal he has to produce, otherwise the team can part ways with him with little financial repercussion. Him not going all is the exact opposite, he needs to come out this year and prove that the last few years of his deal are worth picking up and/or restructuring to give him more guaranteed money.

      And I have no idea where you’re getting the fact that Johnson looked “unspectacular at best”. He was actually ranked 9th in the NFL with an 11.2 ypa average, not to mention his 98 yard TD return. He actually had a solid season, improving as the year went on. This is all with a pretty crappy return team as well.

      The PR situation is not near as gloomy as you make it seem.

  • southy

    Our coverage and protection just flat out sucked last year on special teams, it didn’t matter who was returning the ball. If we can get that fixed then we’ll see what all these guys can do.

    • theycallmerob

      Bringing back Colt Anderson and signing guys like Philips and Benn should help.

      • GEagle

        You see that strip Phillips had one one of the coverage teams? hard not to get excited when you see a play like that, for the simple fact that it’s been a while since we seen anything like that around here

  • Richard Colton

    He’s “Mark” until he throws 5 TDs in his debut against Kansas City, then its “Mr. Barkley”

    • GEagle

      Mark Barkley it is….life as an nfl rookie.

      never thought I would miss seeing good ST play so badly. last year was rough on us. even terrible teams are ATleast usually good at one phase or another..not us lol. We were incompetent across the board…Not only is special Teams crucial to wins and losses, but it’s indicative of your depth, and your Latest 2-3 drafts…
      I’m to that point where I’m tired of babying/protecting players from injury(like not letting Desean return punts). ts football, guys are going to get hurt. We cant play scared…Last year, was just insurmountable in every way. I don’t think any team will ever have the kind of depth to overcome all the injuries we had on offense..But Generally speaking, in a Normal year, Injuries are going to come..iF you are drafting and developing players well, then “The Next guy” should be ready to step up and fill in…Of course, you can’t ask 6 “NEXT GUYS” to step up…but we can’t play scared and not use our best players in rolls that can help us win games, because we fear Injuries…I’m just as excited about our ST future, as I am with the offense…

    • Adam

      Matt just said on twitter Shady has been calling him Matt since he got here. Shady was apparently just duping the media. Well done, sir.

      • Richard Colton

        Shady’s a lot funnier than we thought

  • eaglepete

    yes, with all the 3 n outs, the punt returns will have to be a big factor. I kid I kid…at least I hope I do

    • A_T_G

      What are you kidding about? We force a three and out, return the punt to the house, kick off and repeat. Doesn’t sound like a joke to me.

  • Dutch

    DJax returning punts and kicks is worth the price of admission. Anytime DJax gets the ball in space almost anything is liable to take place and excites the crowd.

    This is the perfect formula to keep the Fans in the game.