April blames himself for Eagles' special-teams gaffes
November 15, 2012, 3:30 pm
The list of head-scratching breakdowns on special teams grew longer against Dallas after the Eagles allowed a punt to come back 74 yards for a touchdown, missed an extra-point and failed to have 11 men on the field for a field goal attempt that caused coach Andy Reid to blow a timeout.
Special teams coordinator Bobby April on Thursday pointed an accusatory finger squarely at himself for the list of setbacks and miscues that have become a weekly exhibit for his special teams.
“The season has been very disappointing,” he said. “If you have a dominating special teams -- I mean, a dominating special teams -- many of the games we lost we could have won. You dominate them, and a lot of games we lost we could have won. I believe that.
“If the games are close, the special teams and turnovers are going to decide the game. I believe it, so whenever we have a letdown it’s certainly disappointing because I feel [as] if I’m responsible for that phase to win the game. If all the games are close and I’ve got to take care of that phase and I let the team down, then certainly [I’m] disappointed.”
Specials teams has had its share of blame for the team’s 3-6 record and the growing outside perception that the Eagles are either not giving full effort or not executing proper fundamentals, problems that usually reflect upon the coaching staff.
Against Dallas, linebacker Casey Matthews and Jamar Chaney each had chances to slow down -- if not corral -- Dwayne Harris on the 78-yard punt return touchdown that put the Cowboys up 24-17 in the fourth quarter, but neither couldn’t come close to bringing down the untouched returner.
Second-year kicker Alex Henery somehow slipped on a point-after attempt, shanking the chip shot way wide left, after knocking through a 40-yarder earlier in the game. Offensive tackle King Dunlap cost the Eagles a timeout when he was sulking on the bench after a penalty instead of taking his place on the kickoff team.
All of these embarrassments came in the aftermath of a Monday night loss to New Orleans in which the Eagles had a trick play kickoff return touchdown that could have brought them back into the game negated by a penalty.
The anger and frustration is brewing over the repeated sloppiness of the third -- and sometimes most overlooked -- phase of the game.
“I can understand any definition that [fans] can try to put on the ineptitude of that game,” April said. “I perfectly understand it. [NFL games are] a big investment. You want to see a great product, and when they don’t, they’ve got a right to be angry. So, yeah, I definitely understand it, 100 percent.”
April joined the Eagles’ staff before the 2010 season and came with a reputation for being one of the league’s brightest minds on special teams. But the Eagles, who were average at best last season, have sunk to the bottom of the league in many important special teams categories.
They enter Sunday’s game against the Redskins with punt and kickoff returns units that reach rank in the bottom six of the NFL along with punt and kickoff coverage teams that are each ranked in the bottom five.
Reid fired Juan Castillo during the bye week after the second-year defensive coordinator’s defense had began to unravel after a good start but recently gave his stamp of approval for April’s job security.
“I think Bobby’s a good football coach,” Reid said. “We’ve got to do a better job. He’s got to do a better job. The players have to do a better job and then we’ll bust some of these and get some big plays.”
April refused to single out his players or question their efforts -- even though Dunlap was clearly responsible for a wasted timeout when he forgot to join his 10 other teammates on the field goal unit and even though multiple players couldn’t get off blocks or find that extra gear to pursue Harris on the punt return touchdown.
Harris scampered down the left sideline for the longest punt return against the Eagles since Ted Ginn Jr. returned one 87 yards for a 49ers touchdown in 2007.
“That was as critical of a play as we’ve had all year,” April said. “I think that turned the tide. I just looked at what I could have done and I go back to minicamps and think, ‘I didn’t get this settled. I didn’t get this squared away. I could have done this instead of spending more time on protection. We could have spent more time on coverage.’
“It’s just anything and everything you look for how you could have done that play better. And there was a lot of coaching things I could have done better. That’s on me. I like the players. I like their talent. It’s really been, for me, a great group to work with. I’ve just got help them better and have them more prepared for a play like that.”
E-mail Geoff Mosher at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Posted 15 November 2012 - 08:53 PM