The 53-man roster for the Philadelphia Eagles is pretty much set. The starters on offense and defense are solidified by superb starters and are expected to reach new heights in the second season of the Nick Sirianni era.
There is one position though, that has yet to be announced to the fans and analysts alike: even if the coaching staff has already made a decision.
Special teams are called that for a reason. A kick return or punt return could change the course of a game and help teams win in huge situations. The San Francisco 49ers’ steam team’ actually was the sole reason for the team winning in Lambeau in last season’s divisional round of the playoffs.
The Eagles aren’t the 49ers. While Aryn Siposs and Jake Elliot are solid punters and kickers respectively, the Eagles have been looking to find a consistent punt and kick returner now since Darren Sproles left.
To special teams coordinator Michael Clay, that decision won’t be announced until kickoff.
“We have enough guys that we feel comfortable, so we will wait until Sunday at 1:00 when we kick off in Detroit.” Clay said on Tuesday.
Who are the Eagles options?
Quez Watkins, Kenneth Gainwell, Boston Scott, and even Avonte Maddox were mentioned by the special team’s coordinator as well.
While Quez Watkins believes himself to be the one to return kickoffs to start the 2022 season, the Eagles also have a few special team aces on the practice squad that could also help the Eagles on punt returns.
Britain Covey, the undrafted return specialist out of Utah had 4 punt return touchdowns in college and a single kick return score. While he wasn’t able to show it in the preseason, Covey was one of the more consistent punt catchers for the Eagles during training camp. It would be a sight for sore eyes after the inconsistencies of the 2021 season.
But Clay also pointed out that Covey isn’t the only practice squad player that could see time as a returner. For Clay, that’s just part of the job of the practice squad.
“There are plenty of guys I like on our practice squad. When we have enough players out there that – they have their name called at any point, really gives you a lot of confidence when you get into game planning…it’s not just Britain, everybody else on the practice squad has to be ready to go in case their name is called.”
Whether the Eagles use Watkins or one of the young practice squad receivers, it’s clear the team will be looking for each returner to be consistent and not make any mistakes. There is also some extra incentive going into opening day for many of the Eagle players who have been around longer than two years.
Dave Fipp was the special team coordinator for the Eagles for seven seasons. During his time, the Eagles were able to get solid special team production from players like Jake Elliot, Darren Sproles, and even Chris Maragos.
With Michael Clay joining Sirianni, Fipp joined Dave Campbell in Detroit. Week one will be another chance for Fipp to face his former team.
“Working under him and just how hard he game plans and tries to find an extra advantage. So just being able to try and match that and give our guys the same type of energy and the same type of game plan, so when they’re going out there, they’re confident doing whatever they’re doing.” Clay added “With Fipp, you just have to be ready for anything. He’s done a very good job last year in Detroit, and I have the utmost respect for him.”
Philadelphia’s special teams group has a difficult task ahead of them this season. With a loaded offense and talented defense, mistakes will be amplified and could decide contests. Perfection will need to be demanded out of any returner, or kicker that steps on the field.
Whether it’s Watkins, Covey, or even the plethora of running-backs, the Eagles returners just can’t mess up.
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