First-place Eagles have to improve kick coverage

First-place Eagles have to improve kick coverage

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Alex Henery's kickoffs frequently don't reach the end zone, making it imperative for the Philadelphia Eagles to improve their coverage.

David Wilson nearly broke loose for a touchdown a few times against the Eagles in Philadelphia's 19-17 win over the New York Giants last Sunday night. Wilson averaged 36.2 yards on six returns, including ones of 48, 45 and 53 yards.

That led the Eagles (3-1) to make some changes on special teams. Brian Rolle, a second-year linebacker who started several games last year, was released. He was replaced by linebacker Adrian Moten, who could see action against Pittsburgh (1-2) on Sunday.

``He's definitely a tough, young scrapper,'' special teams coordinator Bobby April said. ``He looks like one of those guys in Rocky III when Rocky comes in all Dapper Dan and the guys drop their gloves from punching the bag and they're stripped down, ready to rumble. He's kind of got that attitude.''

Moten played in 12 games for Indianapolis and Seattle as a rookie last year and spent training camp with the Eagles before he was let go on the final roster cut. He's eager to make his mark on special teams.

``I showed I'd give it my all when I was here,'' he said. ``I'm going to come in wanting to play special teams a lot. I know that's the biggest thing they brought me in for, but you never know how the NFL goes. It's a business, so you never know. I could be playing linebacker one week. You never know. So, I'll come in and do whatever they need me to do.''

The Eagles are hoping the addition of Moten coupled with the return of special teams ace Colt Anderson does the trick on coverage. It also will help when linebacker Akeem Jordan, another special teams standout, returns from injury. Philadelphia is ranked next-to-last in kickoff coverage, allowing 27.1 yards per return.

``Special teams is just an attitude and we've got to get the right attitude,'' Anderson said. ``We've got to have confidence in what we're doing and we're going to get that fixed.''

Moten is all about attitude.

``I'm going to be a ball hawk,'' he said. ``Go get the ball.''

It certainly would help if Henery boomed his kickoffs into the end zone. But he's last in the league with a 22.2 touchback percentage (4 of 18). Still, Eagles coach Andy Reid wouldn't pin the blame for the coverage problems against the Giants solely on Henery.

``Well, a couple of the kickoffs were a bit short,'' Reid said. ``Hang time is important, but we had guys in position around that 25-yard line at the catch. So, you've got to make sure that you work the right techniques, have the right scheme, right techniques. We should be OK and the kicker's got to do his job, too. But I wouldn't say that that was the No. 1 thing, no.''

April pointed the finger at himself for not giving Henery enough preparation on kickoffs going into the game last week. The Eagles had a unique situation because they signed a new punter, Mat McBriar, and had to practice with a new long snapper because Jon Dorenbos was injured. McBriar is the also the holder so April emphasized the snap and hold last week.

``I didn't do the right thing in training him,'' April said. ``He was off a little bit in his steps and he didn't do as many full length kickoffs as he normally does. He is still delegated the responsibility of going to kick the ball well. He's not getting the pass on this. We did so many field goals last week because we had a new snapper and a new holder. I really wanted his leg to be as spry as it could be for game day. We cut back a little bit on his kickoffs.

``That was a miscalculation on my part.''


NOTES: Jordan (hamstring) won't play against the Steelers. Anderson (knee), LT King Dunlap (hamstring) and DT Derek Landri (knee) are questionable. Reid wouldn't say whether Dunlap or Demetress Bell would start. Bell has started the past two games after losing his job following the first preseason game.


Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter:


Online: and

Quick Links

Caps recall goalie Pheonix Copley after Braden Holtby 'tweaked something' in Dallas game


Caps recall goalie Pheonix Copley after Braden Holtby 'tweaked something' in Dallas game

You thought the Caps had a goalie rotation before, but now they have added a third netminder in the mix.

Pheonix Copley has been recalled from the Hershey Bears and will backup Philipp Grubauer for Washington's game in Detroit, the team announced Thursday.

The move comes in response to an injury concern for Braden Holtby.


Dallas Stars forward Remi Elie collided with Holtby midway through the third period on Tuesday as Holtby was extending to make a save. Holtby reacted awkwardly to the collision and could be seen skating and flexing his leg during the next stoppage.

With only nine games remaining in the regular season, Holtby's injury is a major concern. Given his recent struggles, the final few weeks of the season offered a chance for Holtby to get his game back to form. Just where his game will be when he is 100-percent healthy again is certainly a storyline to watch.


The good news for Washington, however, is that Grubauer is perhaps more ready this season to lead the team than he ever has been and confidence in him around the team should be high.

Since Thanksgiving, Grubauer has played in 22 games with a 17-11-4 record, a .939 save percentage, 1.85 GAA and two shutouts. No goalie who has played in 20 games or more has registered a better save percentage or GAA. He will certainly be looked upon to carry the load until Holtby returns. Whether this means he now has the inside track on starting in the playoffs, however, remains to be seen. That will depend largely on just when Holtby is ready to return and how Grubauer plays down the stretch.

Copley, 26, has gone 14-16-6 with two shutouts, a .898 save percentage and 2.86 GAA in 38 games in Hershey this season. He was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by Washington in 2014. He was traded to the St. Louis Blues in the package that netted the Caps T.J. Oshie, but was reacquired by Washington in Feb. 2017 in a trade deadline deal that included Kevin Shattenkirk.

At the time, it was believed Copley would be the team's backup for the 2017-18 season with Grubauer likely headed to Vegas in the expansion draft. Vegas, however, took Nate Schmidt instead which led to Copley spending the season in Hershey. The Caps now will be happy for the extra goalie depth for as long as Holtby's health remains a concern.

Quick Links

Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

Washington Wizards

Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

This weekend was already going to be special for Washington Wizards fans. Now they will get souvenirs to remember it.

As part of their celebration of Phil Chenier's legendary career and the 40th anniversary of their 1978 NBA championship, the Wizards are handing out emoji signs on Friday night and commemorative t-shirts on Sunday. All fans in attendance will receive a giveaway.


The emoji sign has Chenier's face on it and will be handed out for the March 23 game against the Nuggets. Chenier will have his jersey retired at halftime during the game. 

The emoji sign is presented by NBC Sports Washington. You're welcome, Authentic Fans.


The shirts will be given out on Sunday when the Wizards host the New York Knicks. 

Here's the front...

And the back...

Let's take a closer look at that back...

As a reporter who has received many giveaways over the years at pro sports stadiums, these are uniquely awesome. Should be a great weekend for Wizards fans. See you at the arena.


NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!