Just how big a role will DeSean Jackson have as punt returner with Eagles?

Just how big a role will DeSean Jackson have as punt returner with Eagles?

It seems like there’s a good chance DeSean Jackson will return a few punts in the 2019 season. It also seems like he won’t be the Eagles’ primary punt returner. 

Jackson might not be the best punt returner in Eagles history, but he’s definitely one of the most electric. And even as he enters Year 12 of his career, his first in Philly since 2013, it seems like he could help the Eagles in some punt return situations. 

In fact, Eagles special teams coach Dave Fipp on Monday told reporters that the Eagles have “talked a lot” about what Jackson’s role as a returner might be this season. 

“I would say it this way: I’m sure he’ll have a role,” Fipp said. “Exactly what that is, I don’t know if anyone knows that totally yet.”

Then, Fipp started rattling off the questions the Eagles will have to ask themselves: 

• How many plays is Jackson playing? How many plays can he handle? 

• Can he handle more of a workload? Can he not? 

• Does Jackson want to do it? Does he not want to do it? 

• What’s the situation in the game? Are the Eagles up by a lot where it’s not worth the risk? 

• Does the head coach want him to do it? How about the owner and GM? 

“There’s just a lot of variables,” Fipp said. 

Yeah, there sure are. 

For what it’s worth, Fipp said he thinks Jackson “definitely wants to have some kind of role in it.” Fipp said he and Jackson have a good relationship from their time together during the 2013 season. But Fipp’s first year in Philly was Jackson’s last. 

In 2013, Jackson returned 14 punts for 71 yards (an average of 5.1 yards per return), but led the team in punt returns, ahead of Damaris Johnson (12). Fipp said they probably had Jackson doing too much in 2013. 

So that begs the question: How much will Jackson be used in that role this year? 

Because in his three years since leaving Philadelphia from his first stint, Jackson returned a total of eight punts in three years — three in Washington in 2014 and 2015 and five with the Bucs in 2018. While Jackson is thought of as a great return man, he hasn’t hit 20 returns in a season since 2010, his third year in the league. 

Through his first three NFL seasons, Jackson was an elite punt returner. He returned 99 punts for 1,112 yards (11.2 per return) with four touchdowns. Since then, Jackson has 40 returns for 201 yards (5.0) and no touchdowns.

Still, if the game’s on the line and — I don’t know — the Giants are about to punt the ball away, I’d imagine No. 10 is going to be the man back there to get it. 

If Jackson isn’t returning punts this year, Fipp offered up a list of potential candidates:

Boston Scott: The stout running back has a good shot at making the roster and being a return man, but Fipp said Scott has plenty to prove. Basically, the Eagles want to see how he looks this preseason, catching punts in games. 

DeAndre Thompkins: The rookie from Penn State is a speedster with a history as a returner, but he seems like a long shot to make the team as a fifth or sixth receiver.  

Donnel Pumphrey: Yeah, he’s still around. The former fourth-round pick would need to make the team to return punts and that doesn’t seem likely right now. But if he has a tremendous training camp, anything is possible. 

Corey Clement: To be fair, Fipp didn’t bring up Clement on his own; he was asked. Clement returned a few punts in 2018 and was shaky. Fipp said Clement is more of an “emergency” fit at punt returner. 

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Emotional Nick Foles opens up on George Floyd death

Emotional Nick Foles opens up on George Floyd death

Saying he’s been “torn up” this week, Nick Foles tweeted out a message of inclusion Sunday afternoon, joining the growing number of pro athletes urging racial tolerance and understanding during an increasingly tense time in the U.S.

Foles, the Super Bowl MVP for the Eagles two years ago, tweeted out a lengthy message saying his “heart is with the black and brown communities and the family of George Floyd. (His wife) Tori and I are constantly praying for y’all.”

Floyd died on Monday following an encounter with Minneapolis police.

Here’s part of what the Bears’ quarterback tweeted:

My favorite part of playing football has not been winning a Super Bowl or running the Philly Special. It has been to Glorify God and to play with men from all different backgrounds and races. To use football as an example … the beautiful thing about playing football has been the diversity within the locker room. Men come together to achieve the common goal of winning games no matter what their background. To do that they must love one another, genuinely. It becomes a real brotherhood. I’ve been a part of some special teams. The special teams did not always have the best playbook but they did have the strongest brotherhood. Sports show us what is possible when we stop looking at the difference in skin color and look at the heart of an individual. Christ tells us to love our neighbor. No matter how they look or what their color of skin is we are to genuinely love one another. Football shows us that this is possible and it is truly a beautiful thing when it is from the heart. To all my brother and sisters in the black and brown communities, Tori and I dearly love y’all and we are here to walk alongside y’all and to listen.

Foles went on to quote two Bible verses preaching equality and added, “We are to not just read this verse but to live it out.”

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10 Eagles observations, including the greatness of Reggie White

10 Eagles observations, including the greatness of Reggie White

A wild Nick Foles stat that has nothing to do with the Super Bowl, the miracle of the A.J. Feeley trade, the greatness of Reggie White and the bizarre career of Hank Baskett!

That's only a small sliver of the wonders that await you in this weekend's edition of Roob's 10 Random Offseason Eagles Observations! 

1. I can't even imagine an Eagles game without fans. I can imagine empty venues for other sports. I’ve watched some of those Korean baseball games over the past couple weeks and barely even notice there are no fans. Hockey and hoops, the crowds are more active and louder. But football? NFL? Eagles? The synergy between what’s happening on the field and the fans is so different in football than any other sport, and the old cliche about players feeding off the fans’ energy is very real. You can feel it. You can sense it. When the Linc erupts after an Eagles touchdown or big play, there’s literally nothing like it. It's not just cheering, it's an ocean of joyous noise that envelops your soul. I’d rather have Eagles football with no fans than no football at all, but I just can’t visualize Carson Wentz throwing a game-winning touchdown pass to Zach Ertz and … complete silence. Hopefully, it doesn’t come to that, but if it does, it’s really going to be weird.   

2. One of the most amazing things about Nick Foles’ Eagles career has nothing to do with the Super Bowl or even the 2017 season. In 2013, Foles threw 27 touchdown passes in just 317 attempts. That’s the fewest attempts by any QB throwing at least 27 TDs in the last 44 years.

3. When I was putting together the all-time Eagles Never-Made-a-Pro Bowl teams last week, I was reminded of what Ron Baker said the day he announced his retirement at JFK Stadium at the start of training camp in the summer of 1989. Baker, a solid right guard, had played 11 NFL seasons as a 10th-round pick, the last nine seasons with the Eagles. He and Roynell Young were the only guys who played in the 1980 Super Bowl and were still with the Eagles in 1988 for the Fog Bowl. But when a 34-year-old Baker showed up for camp in 1989 and saw the Eagles’ depth chart, he knew it was time: “When I looked at the depth chart, I saw that I was on the fourth team, and I’ve been around long enough to know there is no fourth team.” And with that, he hung up the cleats and never looked back. Class act, Ron Baker.  

4. From 1997 through 1999, Sean Payton, John Harbaugh, Jon Gruden, Doug Pederson, Bill Callahan, Ron Rivera and Andy Reid were all with the Eagles as a player or coach. All seven became Super Bowl head coaches and all but Rivera and Callahan won. Those three teams Eagles teams? They went 14-33-1. 

5. The last time the Cowboys won playoff games in consecutive seasons was 1995 and 1996. The last time they even reached the playoffs in back-to-back seasons was 2006 and 2007. 

6. I think back to training camp in 2011 when every fan in attendance at Lehigh could hear new defensive line coach Jim Washburn constantly berating and insulting his players in a way that was so inappropriate and so offensive and so demeaning I’m surprised Andy Reid let it continue. This went way beyond a coach being a hard-ass or a strict disciplinarian. This was awful. Reid finally fired Washburn halfway through the 2012 season, but a lot of damage had been done. I wouldn’t want that guy coaching my worst enemy.

7. Reggie White had 33 games as an Eagle with two or more sacks. Only six other Eagles have had 33 games with at least one sack.

8. It still blows my mind that the Eagles were able to trade A.J. Feeley to the Dolphins for a 2nd-round pick — a very high 2nd-round pick — after the 2003 season. What had A.J. done to convince the Dolphins he was their QB of the future? In 2002 he went 4-1 in relief of an injured Donovan McNabb, although he had just five TDs and five INTs and a modest 72.6 passer rating in those games. Nonetheless, the Dolphins not only traded the Eagles a 2nd-round pick, they gave A.J. a $3 million signing bonus when they restructured his deal. Feeley went 3-5 with 11 TDs and 15 INTs in eight starts in Miami before the Dolphins gave up on him, benching and eventually releasing him. The Eagles drafted Reggie Brown with the pick they got from the Dolphins — the 35th pick overall in 2005 — and Feeley wound up rejoining the Eagles and even threw a TD to Brown in a game against the Patriots. The Dolphins haven’t won a playoff game since making that trade.

9. Before last year, only four players in Eagles history had netted 150 yards both rushing and receiving over the last four games of a season (Wilbert Montgomery twice, Keith Byars in 1988, Herschel Walker in 1993 and Brian Westbrook twice). Last year, both Miles Sanders AND Boston Scott did it, making the Eagles the first team in NFL history with that distinction. Doug Pederson’s ability to effectively use both backs as receivers and runners with the wide receiver cupboard bare was a crucial dimension of the Eagles’ 4-0 finish. It will be interesting to see how Doug deploys his backs this year with presumably an upgraded wide receiving corps because they sure look like a lethal combination. Scott needs a role in this offense. 

10. Gotta finish with a great Hank Baskett stat! The fact that Baskett is one of only five players in NFL history with three career touchdown catches of at least 85 yards is one of the strangest things in football history. Hank only had three other touchdown catches in his career, none longer than 10 yards. He actually had three TD catches of at least 87 yards but NONE between 11 and 86 yards. That’s absurd.

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