April Impressed With Damaris Johnson

Philadelphia Eagles undrafted free agent Damaris Johnson.When asked who undrafted free agent Damaris Johnson reminded him of, Eagles special-teams coach Bobby April needed a few seconds to remember the name.

But then it came to him: Eric Guliford.

Guliford, listed at 5-8, was in the league from 1993 to 1998 and spent two seasons (’97 and ’98) with the Saints when April was their special-teams coach.

“Eric is not like Damaris because he’s not nearly as fast or nearly as quick, but he gets to every ball. They don’t hit the ground, they don’t roll, he makes good decisions,” April said. “Reminds me of him more than any of the other ones for that reason. He’s got a break on that ball, and he’s there in position. It almost doesn’t matter where it’s kicked.”

The Eagles clearly want to get better results from their punt return unit (ranked 27th, per Football Outsiders last year) and their kickoff return unit (24th). In addition to Johnson, they drafted Brandon Boykin in the fourth round.

“That punt return especially is critical because the judgements they make are going to affect the offense and the defense,” April said.

“I could definitely see coach [Andy Reid] keeping a guy because of that status.”

As of right now, April confirmed that Johnson is the No. 1 punt returner and Boykin is the No. 1 kickoff returner. Boykin is a lock to make the team because he’s competing with Joselio Hanson for the slot cornerback spot.

Johnson, meanwhile, has shown flashes offensively, but if he’s going to make the team and contribute as a rookie, chances are it will be primarily as a returner.

The preseason games will be critical for Johnson, but he’s got a good shot to make the final 53-man roster.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.

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