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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