First-place Eagles have to improve kick coverage
PHILADELPHIA – Alex Henery’s kickoffs frequently don’t reach the end zone, making it imperative for the Philadelphia Eagles to improve their coverage.
David Wilson nearly broke loose for a touchdown a few times against the Eagles in Philadelphia’s 19-17 win over the New York Giants last Sunday night. Wilson averaged 36.2 yards on six returns, including ones of 48, 45 and 53 yards.
That led the Eagles (3-1) to make some changes on special teams. Brian Rolle, a second-year linebacker who started several games last year, was released. He was replaced by linebacker Adrian Moten, who could see action against Pittsburgh (1-2) on Sunday.
“He’s definitely a tough, young scrapper,” special teams coordinator Bobby April said. “He looks like one of those guys in Rocky III when Rocky comes in all Dapper Dan and the guys drop their gloves from punching the bag and they’re stripped down, ready to rumble. He’s kind of got that attitude.”
Moten played in 12 games for Indianapolis and Seattle as a rookie last year and spent training camp with the Eagles before he was let go on the final roster cut. He’s eager to make his mark on special teams.
“I showed I’d give it my all when I was here,” he said. “I’m going to come in wanting to play special teams a lot. I know that’s the biggest thing they brought me in for, but you never know how the NFL goes. It’s a business, so you never know. I could be playing linebacker one week. You never know. So, I’ll come in and do whatever they need me to do.”
The Eagles are hoping the addition of Moten coupled with the return of special teams ace Colt Anderson does the trick on coverage. It also will help when linebacker Akeem Jordan, another special teams standout, returns from injury. Philadelphia is ranked next-to-last in kickoff coverage, allowing 27.1 yards per return.
“Special teams is just an attitude and we’ve got to get the right attitude,” Anderson said. “We’ve got to have confidence in what we’re doing and we’re going to get that fixed.”
Moten is all about attitude.
“I’m going to be a ball hawk,” he said. “Go get the ball.”
It certainly would help if Henery boomed his kickoffs into the end zone. But he’s last in the league with a 22.2 touchback percentage (4 of 18). Still, Eagles coach Andy Reid wouldn’t pin the blame for the coverage problems against the Giants solely on Henery.
“Well, a couple of the kickoffs were a bit short,” Reid said. “Hang time is important, but we had guys in position around that 25-yard line at the catch. So, you’ve got to make sure that you work the right techniques, have the right scheme, right techniques. We should be OK and the kicker’s got to do his job, too. But I wouldn’t say that that was the No. 1 thing, no.”
April pointed the finger at himself for not giving Henery enough preparation on kickoffs going into the game last week. The Eagles had a unique situation because they signed a new punter, Mat McBriar, and had to practice with a new long snapper because Jon Dorenbos was injured. McBriar is the also the holder so April emphasized the snap and hold last week.
“I didn’t do the right thing in training him,” April said. “He was off a little bit in his steps and he didn’t do as many full length kickoffs as he normally does. He is still delegated the responsibility of going to kick the ball well. He’s not getting the pass on this. We did so many field goals last week because we had a new snapper and a new holder. I really wanted his leg to be as spry as it could be for game day. We cut back a little bit on his kickoffs.
“That was a miscalculation on my part.”
NOTES: Jordan (hamstring) won’t play against the Steelers. Anderson (knee), LT King Dunlap (hamstring) and DT Derek Landri (knee) are questionable. Reid wouldn’t say whether Dunlap or Demetress Bell would start. Bell has started the past two games after losing his job following the first preseason game.