Too Many Mistakes For April
By Lance Epstein
The offense was efficient. The defense was fantastic. Special teams were so-so against the Jaguars.
While the Eagles sit at 2-1 and atop of the NFC East division, there special teams have been mediocre this season and must improve.
The first game against the Packers, it was poor kickoff coverage and Jordy Nelson nearly taking three kickoffs to the house.
Over the past two games, the Eagles have fixed their kickoff coverage, but have struggled in covering punts. Last week against the Jaguars, (Jaguars WR) Mike Thomas was a tackle away from returning a punt for a touchdown and changing the momentum of the game.
Obviously, special teams coordinator Bobby April knows he must correct these mistakes. April blames it on too many mental mistakes. Whether it is a penalty or just blown coverage, April is determined to turn it around.
Another interesting topic that April discussed at his news conference on Thursday was using (CB) Jorrick Calvin as the kickoff return and punt returner against the Jags. He explained that Ellis Hobbs and DeSean Jackson got a little nicked up and that was the primary reason.
All in all, the Eagles have to get better on special teams if they plan on staying in first place.
Here are Bobby April’s press conference quotes:
On too many mental mistakes:
"Absolutely, absolutely there are too many mistakes and there are too many penalties. The punt return where we wasted a timeout – and those are big plays, too. You can almost sweep them under the rug, but you really can't. Those timeouts are critical. They're critical for challenges, they're critical to give you ability to score points. So, that was a poor penalty. That was my responsibility, though. The communication on that particular play was not good primarily because of Jackson being injured. The trainers have given me plenty of time to let me know Jackson was injured. I didn't get the communication because Calvin plays on that punt return team and then he had to go from punt return to, you know. That was the problem. To get it out there to the players, I didn't do it. I didn't get it done. So, I cost us a timeout. It wasn't the players; that was me. Of course, the big return, that's four first downs and the way our defense played, we would've had an opportunity to then parlay that into better offensive field position. It all works together, I mean, it all works together. All those plays, that's the first play of the defensive series and we didn't set the tempo for it well. The penalties, I think whatever lack of – discipline sounds like it's entrenched throughout the players. You say it's a lack of discipline, but those are undisciplined plays and we've just got to stay on top of every little, minor detail. Address it, point it out, nothing slides. At this point, at least in that game, it hurts. It hurt our probability of winning. Certainly the offense and defense played great on both sides. So, we were able to overcome it. In a close game you can't have four special teams penalties. They're too costly."
On using CB Jorrick Calvin at returner vs. Jags:
"Well, the head coach makes that decision primarily, but we liked him and we liked him in preseason. Really, he sort of went ahead of (WR) Jeremy Maclin on that deal. (CB) Ellis Hobbs got nicked a little bit in the game and (WR) DeSean Jackson got nicked a little bit in the game and that's why he was put in. He really wasn't put in to go ahead of him. They were a little bit nicked, nothing bad, obviously. Then, we had decided that he would be the backup earlier last week and, again, not a snub to Maclin. We just wanted to see him and we wanted to use all the components as a team to the greatest ability to win the game and we felt he could do that. So, that was the reason. Not that anybody got beat out, or we didn't think anyone was doing anything particularly poorly. That was just it."
On not being able to use Jackson punt returns:
"Well, I think a lot of it has to do with the punter and a little bit of the ability to kind of take him out of the game. But that's up to me to schematically do something where at least you can get the ball in his hands. We've tried a few things and it just hasn't worked. So much of that is improvisation to a degree. Just hadn't happened and I guess I haven't done a good enough job setting something up for him to work. We've tried, but at least at this point, he doesn't have certainly the kind of year he had a year ago. Maybe a year, at this point, like his first year. But at any time, he can bust out."
On Jackson and Maclin having big roles in the offense and expecting that to continue:
"I think it could because certainly those and (RB) LeSean McCoy, of course, made big plays and, of course, (QB) Michael Vick every quarterback is a primary component of any team. But those other two guys are big and have big-play potential and have explosive-play potential. I think it could happen. I think coaches always prepare to do that. We like Jorrick Calvin, so everything you've seen in the two games he's played, he's played pretty well. He runs hard, he stuffs the tackle, he makes good decisions and he has good ball security. We think DeSean is ahead of him, we think Ellis is ahead of him, but he's not far behind. He's an excellent go-to guy in situations like that, or to maybe, possibly, save some wear and tear on those guys in their offensive and defensive responsibilities."
On rookie LB Jamar Chaney:
"Well, like most guys that are rookies – and we have a lot of them playing – there is, for whatever reason - they come out of college, they're really good players – there is a maturation in there and the guys take a while to get going. I think Jamar has taken a while to get going, as well. In this game, he stepped it up. He really played like I perceive him being able to play in the future. Certainly into the distant future, I think he can be a really, really good player because he's tough, he's got an intent purpose about his play, he's a physical guy and he runs fast. His wherewithal is getting better and I think he's going to be really good. I told head coach Andy Reid when we first had talked about him and his play early, this and that, he reminded me of a young man named George Kunz who we had in Atlanta. He was very similar to that. We cut him, Green Bay picked him up and then he went on to have a heck of a career. He reminds me a lot of that. I think he has that kind of potential. He's going to have to do a lot. He's going to have to invest and sacrifice and toil and do all those things and not take anything for granted. If he does, I think he can be good."
On Washington picking up a punter:
"At this point, no. The last I checked was last night. We did punt return yesterday. I don't think so. I think the rumor is – and probably a very good rumor – you know, Hunter Smith punted for them and he's out there. Perfect guy, in an instant can go ahead and take it because he's an experienced guy and a good player. I think they feel they can wait as long as possible before they have to do that. They don't necessarily want to cut (P) Josh Bidwell. At this point, no. So I'm assuming he's overcome that injury."
On Washington's return units:
"(DB) Phillip Buchanon, boy, when he first came into the league, he took it by storm. He had a little bit of a lull as a player. His talent hasn't left him, so he's dangerous any time. The return of the kid out of Michigan State, Devin Thomas, he's a big, strong guy. He's done really well, he's done really well. They've really gone after the punter a lot; they've tried to block a lot of punts. And Buchanon hasn't had as many opportunities as most people. Everybody is explosive and every week is just a humongous challenge."
On K David Akers kicking the ball out of bounds and its risk:
"I think it is. Any time you directionally kick and, if you have something set up where you need the directional kick to take the greatest advantage of the coverage you have the way you're deploring the guys, your greatest benefit to that deployment is having the ball placed way over here. So there is a little bit of a risk on that. There is a little bit of a boldness to it. You wouldn't suspect David with his accuracy. You'd like him to be like a juggler. I mean, that ball is part of his foot; part of the juggler's hand. You can do anything you want with it. You know, it doesn't take much to miss and I think he was really trying to – he knew the scheme we were deploying, where we were deploying our people and he was really trying to do a great job and just kind of miss-hit. I had asked him to get it over there. I take part of that responsibility as well. Maybe more than him."