Before the bye week, Jalen Reagor returned from his UCL injury to play 47 offensive snaps against the Cowboys, but he didn’t get to return any punts.
That could change in the second half of the season.
“We’ll see with Jalen,” Eagles special teams coach Dave Fipp said on Monday morning. “Obviously, [Reagor] just got back. He had not been able to practice for a long time. We didn’t just want to throw him back there in that situation. I’m sure as we get going, we’ll work him back in and see him more and more back there.”
In the week of practice leading up to the Cowboys game, Reagor and Greg Ward Jr. were the two Eagles fielding punts. That will likely continue this week as the Eagles prepare for the Giants game.
Reagor, 21, has played in just three career NFL games so far but the first-round pick returned punts in just one. In the opener in Washington, Reagor fielded two punts for six yards. In that game, he was in a rotation with Ward, presumably dictated by situation. Ward is the sure-handed return man, but Reagor obviously brings more explosion.
And the Eagles could use some more explosion out of their returns.
Ward has been the Eagles’ primary punt returner all season, but even after picking up a season-long 22-yarder against the Cowboys two weeks ago, his return average is just 6.55 yards per return (11 for 72).
Of the 15 players league-wide who have returned at least 10 punts this season, Ward’s average of 6.55 yards per return ranks him 13th.
Overall, the Eagles’ punt return average of 5.7 ranks them in the bottom 10 in the NFL this season. Just six teams have a worse average. In fact, this is now the third year in a row in which the Eagles have been in the bottom 10 in the NFL in punt return average.
Reagor might be able to help out in this area. He would also give the Eagles a real home run threat at the position too.
During his last two years at TCU, Reagor returned a total of 23 punts for 409 yards (17.8) and took two to the house in 2019, including this beauty that should look awfully familiar.
Of course, the only player to return a punt this season aside from Ward and Reagor was DeSean Jackson late in the fourth quarter the last time the Eagles faced the Giants and we all know what happened. Jackson was targeted by a shot to his helmet and was then injured on a cheap and late hit. That seemed like kind of a freak thing, but there’s inherently some risk involved with returning punts.
So the Eagles will have to weigh that risk when deciding whether or not Reagor should be returning punts. After all, this is a guy who has already suffered two injuries in his first few months as an Eagle — the shoulder tear during training camp and the UCL tear in Week 2.
The Eagles will also factor in usage on offense. Typically, if a guy has a huge workload on offense, the Eagles are hesitant to give them too much on special teams. But Reagor and Ward are both expected to play a lot in the second half of the season. So it looks like this might eventually be determined by situation like it was in Week 1.
There’s no question that Reagor has the athleticism to provide a spark on punt return, but there’s a lot more that goes into the decision than that.