I was ecstatic when the Eagles hired Bobby April a couple years back. The STs play had been erratic since John Harbaugh gave up the post to become a positional assistant with the defense. April was a great STs coach and I expected him to put together a top flight unit, the kind that Harbaugh had given us for almost a decade.
STs were up and down last year. By the end of the season, they were pretty good. Alex Henery was on a roll. Keenan Clayton, Casey Matthews, and Akeem Jordan were very good in coverage. Chas Henry did his best punting late in the year. There was reason for optimism.
2012 has basically been a disaster.
* Brandon Boykin fumbled a KOR, ironically on his longest return of the season (44 yds).
* Damaris Johnson fumbled a PR and muffed a punt. Both led to TDs.
* The blocking on returns has been terrible.
* Roscoe Parrish had PRs of 18 and 30 yards in the Tampa game.
* KO coverage was nearly disastrous vs the Giants…6-217 (36.2 per KOR).
* Blocked punt vs Cincy.
* False start vs Tampa that moved back FG attempt, led to miss.
* Damaris Johnson had the bad habit of fielding punts too deep early in the year. This cost the team a FG in the Ravens game.
* Ravens ran a fake punt that would have worked, but the runner tripped.
* Ravens returned a KO out near midfield to jump start a TD drive.
* DET’s Stefan Logan returned a punt 48 yards to set up a FG early in the game (we lost the game in OT).
* Fletcher Cox was thrown out of the Lions game for punching a player on extra point attempt (not really April’s fault, but part of a pattern of very undisciplined play).
* Multiple games where a blocker was not on the field for a punt, PK, or FG. This was a variety of players, offense and defense. Again…there is a pattern of undisciplined play. First job for a coach is to get the right people on the field and get them lined up correctly.
* Allowed a PR for TD in the Dallas game that broke things wide open. There were uncalled blocks in the back, but you still shouldn’t give up a TD.
* Alex Henery missed an extra point vs Dallas.
* Alex Henery missed a short FG vs Tampa. Appeared to be a problem with the hold that affected the kick.
* Failed to recover onside kicks.
STs has not been a strength. It has been a source of frustration and bad play. I didn’t even go through all the penalties that we’ve racked up on STs. Those are the kind of hidden yards that can plague a mistake-prone team like the Eagles.
As bad as this is, the failure to develop players is equally damning. Alex Henery has done well, but as I’ve written a few times…Henery was the best college kicker I’ve ever seen. This isn’t like April took some late round prospect and turned him into a weapon.
None of the return guys has done well under April. Damaris has shown flashes, but nothing special.
The only cover guy who has thrived is Colt Anderson. He does have Pro Bowl potential.
It would be one thing if April was given no resources. He’s got talent to work with. It would be one thing if part of the STs were exceptional and the other areas deficient. There is literally nothing to be happy about.
I have no idea what happened. April was the STs coach of the year in 2004 and 2008. This isn’t a guy who was in over his head. Unfortunately his ideas didn’t work well. Some have suggested that the new blocking rules really affected him. That is certainly possible, but doesn’t explain the other deficiencies.
After seeing such a good coach as April struggle…I don’t know what to expect in the future. This experience will certainly curb my enthusiasm on hiring a big name STs coach and expecting great results.
If I tried to defend April at all…the best I could do is to say that the Eagles have been a soft team the last two years. That isn’t because of April and it has hurt him. The flip side is that the right STs coach should be able to help develop young LBs and DBs and get them to play more physically.
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The Giants are losing. Coughlin is making questionable decisions and Eli is throwing picks. Life is good.
The Skins were losing. They just took the lead. Can’t lose with this game. If they win, we can cheer for a bogus QB controversy. If they lose, well that’s just fun to see.
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I’ll post my DGR on Monday morning. I did a write-up for PE.com.