Philadelphia Eagles Woeful Return Game Must Be Addressed

By Frank Benditt III

The Philadelphia Eagles had little to no return game during the 2011 season.  I believe that the Eagles were one of the worst in the NFL fielding punt/kick returns.

The Eagles primary kick returner, Dion Lewis, was instant boredom.  Lewis so so awful, I treated his kick returns as an extended commercial break.  Dion Lewis managed to average 21.6 yards per return on the season.   With kick-offs being moved up to the 35 yard line, most of Lewis’ returns came from 4-6 yards deep in the end zone.  Dion’s season long return was only 33 yards.  Dion Lewis ended up being the Reno Mahe of kick returns.  Mahe returned kicks for the Eagles from 2004-2007 averaging just 21.4 yards for his career.  Mahe was the disdain to many Eagles fans because he lacked break away potential, but at least he had a career long of 64 yards.

During the 2011 season, it has been well documented that the Eagles primary punt returner and stand out wide receiver, DeSean Jackson, let his contract situation affect his play.  No where was this more evident than Jackson’s effort on punt returns.  Jackson ‘mailed it in’ on most of his returns, deciding to avoid injury.  Jackson primarily fair caught balls or decided to just run out of bounds.  For the 2011 season, DeSean averaged just 6.7 yards per return.  In 2009, Jackson averaged 15.2 yards per return with 2 touchdowns, along with averaging 11.6 yards per return with 1 touchdown in 2010.

As it stands, both Lewis and Jackson will resume their return roles in 2012.  Being a rookie last season, it is fair to say that Dion Lewis could improve.  The Eagles need to work with Lewis and coach him concerning improving his field vision.  With DeSean Jackson signing a new multi-year deal, one would presume that Jackson will be the punt return threat of old.  The fans and the Eagles sure hope so.

One thing for sure is that the Eagles need to figure out their return game.  Field position is so critical in the NFL.  Last season, the Eagles return game was like having a starting halfback who averages 2.6 yards per carry with a season long run of 18.  The bottom line is that the Eagles need to examine all options for improving their return game.  Andy Reid needs to evaluate current talent or a potential draft pick to enhance the Eagles starting field position.


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