April: Punt Return Was a Coaching Breakdown
Bobby April seems to understand.
He realizes that in the past two seasons, the Eagles have lost seven games decided by one possession or less. He knows that special teams have come up short time and again as the Birds have followed up a disappointing 8-8 campaign with a 3-6 start.
“The season’s been very disappointing because… if you have a dominating special teams – I mean a dominating special teams – many of the games that we’ve lost, we could have won,” April said. “You dominate ‘em, and a lot of the games that we lost, we could have won. So I believe that. I believe… if the games are close, special teams and turnovers are going to decide the game.”
And he’s right. The truth is, if the Eagles just got average play from their special teams, they might have been able to steal a couple wins.
Last week, with the game tied at 17, they gave up a 78-yard touchdown to Cowboys return man Dwayne Harris.
“That’s a coaching breakdown,” April said. “If you don’t have those lanes and distribution of where you need to come from to get to the ball, then somewhere in there, I did not get that entrenched in their mind.”
The Eagles have gotten nothing from their special teams for the last year and a half. Football Outsiders currently has April’s group ranked 26th. The Eagles are tied for fifth-worst in kickoff coverage, allowing 27 yards per return. Football Outsiders has them second-worst in punt coverage. And they are giving up 13.8 yards per return, tied for second-worst.
The return game has been just as bad. The Eagles are averaging 19.7 yards per kickoff return (28th). And they are one of only six teams without a punt return of more than 20 yards.
April was asked if he understands why fans are so frustrated with the way his unit has let the team down.
“I can understand any definition that they could try to put on the ineptitude of that game,” he said.
“It’s a big investment. They want to see a great product. And when they don’t, they’ve got every right to be angry. I definitely understand, 100 percent.”