Avant gets punt-return opportunity

 Posted by at 2:32 pm
Aug 092010

August 9 Camden Courier-Post

Jason Avant was returning punts during Sunday’s practices, which led to speculation that DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin would be limited in punt-returning duties this season.

Special teams coordinator Bobby April said that’s not necessarily the case, even though protecting Jackson and Maclin is a concern for the Eagles.

Jackson, of course, is an elite punt returner who led the NFL with an average of 15.2 yards per return last season. He returned two punts for touchdowns.

But Jackson also has had his share of injuries, including a concussion last season.

Maclin, entering his second season, expects to play extensively at wide receiver this season after working in gradually in the early part of last season.

“This is not why Jason was put back there,” April said. “Jason was put back there primarily to be a guy that we can use in that back-up situation.”

April added that he and Eagles coach Andy Reid have not discussed the availability of Jackson and Maclin for punt-return duty this season.

But it seems as if April is trying out several players as possibilities. Eldra Buckley, for example, fielded some punts during the afternoon practice. April even asked J.J. Arrington if he had ever returned punts. When Arrington told him he hadn’t, April moved on. Even Asante Samuel took part in special teams drills during the morning practice.

April said Avant, who returned punts at Michigan, has the ability to be a good punt returner.

“We’ve only been trying for a couple of days,” April said. “I’ve been real impressed with him. He made a couple mistakes (Sunday) on some balls, but it will get better just by experience.

“You never know how this roster is going to play out. But if your top two guys are injured, you’ve got to have a contingency plan.”

Leg up

The Eagles brought in Ken Parrish to not only challenge punter Sav Rocca, but to possibly serve as a kickoff specialist.

Yet April said that Rocca is currently holding onto his job. Parrish lost a similar battle last summer. He then signed with the Jets, but was released before the start of the regular season.”

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