Eagles

Exploring Eagles' punt and kick returner options for Week 1

Eagles

While there seems to be some growing optimism that rookie Jalen Reagor will be available in Week 2, we know he won’t be ready for Sunday’s opener in Washington. Reagor has a shoulder injury.

That’s a big loss for the offense, but also for special teams, where Reagor was an option as a punt and kick returner. He’s listed as the Eagles’ top punt returner.

So who will the Eagles’ return men be on Sunday?

“I would say nice try on that, but I admire the effort,” special teams coordinator Dave Fipp said. “We'll find out Sunday."

Before then, let’s go through the Eagles’ options:

At punt return:

Greg Ward: Ward doesn’t have an extensive history as a return man in the NFL but he is a sure-handed guy. He has seven career punt returns for a total of 24 yards and a long of 16. Yeah, that’s not very good, but he also hasn’t had many chances. He worked as a punt returner all training camp.

DeSean Jackson: Yeah, we all know what Jackson can do as a punt returner. He’s one of the most exciting punt returners ever and has taken four to the house. But he’s 33 now and hasn’t returned more than five punts in a season since 2013. So maybe if the Eagles are in a high-leverage situation, Jackson is out there. But he’s not going to be the guy every week.

Avonte Maddox: Maddox isn’t actually listed on the Eagles’ unofficial depth chart. That goes Reagor-Ward-Jackson. But Maddox did get some work back there during training camp and could be an emergency option. Maddox returned nine punts and 19 kickoffs during his college career at Pitt.

 

At kick return:

Boston Scott: Scott is at the top of the Eagles’ depth chart at this position. He has 14 career kick returns for 325 yards (23.2) and a long of 35. So that’s a pretty decent average considering he hasn’t really broken any yet.

John Hightower: The rookie from Boise State was a pretty good returner in college. He had 36 kick returns for 840 yards (23.3) and a touchdown. His average in 2019 was 24.6. It’s also worth noting that fellow rookie receiver Quez Watkins will also be an option when he’s back off IR. Watkins returned 18 kicks (20.3 average) at Southern Miss.

Jason Huntley: The newest Eagle was just claimed off waivers. The fifth-round running back from New Mexico State was a dynamic returner in college. He returned 59 kicks for 1,521 yards (25.8) and had 5 kick return touchdowns! But will we see him back there Week 1?

“We’re excited about Jason,” Fipp said. “Whether or not you just plug and play, I can't really answer that.”