Remember when the Eagles regularly had one of the best special teams units in all of football?
Chip Kelly was known for putting a heavy emphasis on the special teams group and it carried over into the early stages of Doug Pederson’s tenure.
But now, the Eagles have one of the most lack luster special teams units in the NFL.
Their specialists have all been fine this year. Jake Elliot just brought home the NFC Special Teams Player of the Month award for November. He’s hit on 90% of his field goals this season. Punter Arryn Siposs has been a solid addition to the special teams unit as well, averaging 46 yards per punt and placing 13 of his punts inside the 20 yard line.
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Where the special teams unit has really struggled is in the return game.
The Eagles have posted the second-lowest punt return average of any team this season, recording just 6.1 yard per punt return. Their kickoff returns aren’t much better. Their 18.3 yards per kickoff return ranks 29th in the NFL.
Jalen Reagor has been the starting kick/punt returner for most of the 2021 season. It’s pretty clear that the team is just trying to find ways to utilize the former first round pick at this point. He was actually one of the better returners coming out of college two years ago, but it hasn’t translated to the NFL.
On the year, Reagor is averaging just 5.8 yards per punt return, but he has averaged a respectable 22.9 yards per kickoff return.
Special teams coach Michael Clay seems content with keeping Reagor as the team’s returner, but something has to give.
If Clay believes Reagor is a suitable option at returner, fine. Keep him as the kickoff returner because he’s actually done alright in that area. But someone new should get an opportunity to return punts.
An electrifying punt returner can be such an invaluable weapon to have in the NFL. It can flip field position and even alter the outcome of a game. Just ask Darren Sproles — easily the best punt returner in recent Eagles history.
One look through the roster and it doesn’t appear like the Eagles have many suitable options to replace Reagor.
They do have options on their practice squad, though. Running back Jason Huntley was a hot commodity during training camp, as many reporters praised his speed and quickness.
Huntley could be exactly what the doctor ordered. A undersized running back who can run away from anyone and make people miss in the open field. Reagor, at least during this season, hasn’t shown that he can do either of those two things.
Regardless if Huntley is the answer, the team needs to address their return game. With an offense that struggles to move the ball at times, having a consistent return game could really benefit the entire team.
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