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Risk, Reward and the Eagles Special Teams

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DeSean Jackson caught a punt at the 2 yard line and not only didn’t realize what was wrong with that, said he would do it again.

Ellis Hobbs fumbled the second-half kickoff trying to get a few more yards and talked about how that separates him from other returnmen.

Sav Rocca saw two of his punts travel a combined 60 yards and wasn’t the least bit concerned about his job security.

It wouldn’t have mattered who quarterbacked the Eagles in Sunday’s 48-22 loss to the New Orleans Saints in the home opener at Lincoln Financial Field, if special teams is going to gift wrap 24 points to the opposition, the Eagles are going to lose.

““Yes, it killed us,’’ safety Quinitin Mikell, who used to be the Eagles best special teams player before he became a starter, said. “Even with watching the film last week, we had some things that could have been called on special teams. We pride ourselves on playing well on special teams, playing disciplined on special teams and that wasn’t what we did today.

“Whatever it takes, we’re going to get that fixed. We can’t win games against anyone doing that kind of stuff, so we’ll get that fixed this week and it’s not going to happen again.”

Don’t be so sure.

Even worse than the team’s play was the attitude of three of the guilty parties – Jackson, Hobbs, and Rocca – in the post-game locker room.

Jackson’s gaffe came late in the first half with the score tied, 10-10. On one of the rare occasions when the defense stopped Saints quarterback Drew Brees and forced a punt, Jackson backpedaled toward his end zone and caught the ball at the 2.

He immediately took off to his left, and got out to the 33 yardline, but two blatant blocks from behind is what enabled him to get away in the first place.

The calls were made and the Eagles started at the 3. A three-and-out led to great field position for the Saints and eventually a 17-10 lead.

“I think the punt went deeper than he thought it would and he didn’t realize where he was,’’ special teams coach Ted Daisher said. “That’s a ball he should have let go into the end zone.’’

That’s normally what you do when the ball is at the 2. Jackson says “not me.’’   

“I knew where I was,’’ Jackson, who brought a punt back for a touchdown a week earlier against Carolina, said. “It didn't have nothing to do with me catching the ball on the 2. I mean, I have a little bit of leeway from the coaches here and the punt-return team and I just caught the ball and it was a great return. Unfortunately a couple of guys on the team were called for a penalty. But wherever the ball is at, you've got to be smart, but there wasn't nobody within 10 yards of me, so I felt comfortable with that.’’

“The biggest thing is just being smart. Like I said, there was nobody that was close to me to be able to make a tackle. So anytime I got that situation, I'm going to make the same decision.’’

 If there was nobody near him, why did he bolt to the left, and who were those guys who were clipped?

Being smart is letting the ball go in the end zone and starting at the 20.

But that’s a problem with this group of Eagles special teammers, the risk vs. reward factor. Yes, Jackson and Hobbs are explosive. They can bring back a kick at any time. Some times, you’d rather have Reno Mahe.      

Here’s Hobbs on his fumble to start the second half that turned a 17-13 game into 24-13 before most of the fans got back in their seats.

“I’m just trying to make a play there,’’ the former Patriot said. “That’s what I do. That’s what separates guys like me and DeSean from other guys, we’re playmakers. I’m trying to get free there, trying to get a couple of more yards and he made a good play, kind of tomahawked the ball out. I could have just gone down, but I’m trying to make a play.’’

You’re not going to bring every kickoff back to midfield. So take what you get and be satisfied. There’s nothing as damaging as a fumble on a return.     

The Saints didn’t fumble any of Rocca’s punts, especially the two that went 34 and 26 yards respectively, and led directly to 10 New Orleans points.

“It’s very hard because then you hit a 65 or 70-yard kick on the kick before.’’ Rocca, who added that if the team brings in someone else “So be it.’’  

The Eagles special teams probably have as much talent on it, as it’s ever had. That doesn’t always translate, however.

For all the good, there are the plays that happened, Sunday.

“That’s why they call it special teams,’’ Hobbs said. “Because you make special plays and it can go either way. What I tell the guys is that they’re the game changing plays. All you can do is learn from it, watch the film, and come back the next day.”

Homepage photo (AP Photo/Michael Perez)