The Philadelphia Eagles‘ special teams unit took a major step back on Thursday night. They had a few kickoff coverage breakdowns which we haven’t seen in two weeks with this unit. The usually sure-handed Damaris Johnson also muffed a punt deep in Eagles territory, which directly cost the team three points in what was lucky not to be seven.
The fumble near his own goal line is inexcusable for Johnson. You can’t muff a punt like that, especially while pinned down in your own territory. It is certainly a surprise for Johnson though. In preseason and training camp, Johnson caught every ball he could get his hands on whether it be a pass, kickoff, or punt. He also looked dynamic on special teams in the preseason, breaking off a few long runs on kickoff and punt returns.
We just haven’t seen that guy in the regular season. It looks like he has come close to breaking off a few times, but he has failed to get far past the 20.
If Johnson keeps up his shaky play on returns, head coach Chip Kelly will have a decision to make. Johnson is dangerous with the ball in his hands, no doubt, but Kelly may have to have someone more sure-handed to field punts. Would he risk putting DeSean Jackson back there on punts? Jackson would be further exposed to injury on punt returns.
However, besides Jason Avant, he is the most sure-handed player on the team and is just as dynamic, if not more so on special teams than Johnson. It’s a tough decision for Kelly. Hopefully, Johnson improves his play and it never comes to this.