Eagles return punts and kicks after Jaylen Leager trade

When the Eagles traded Jaren Rieger Wednesday, not only did they dispose of their fifth receiver, but they also disposed of the return man.

Last season, Lager was the Eagles’ top punt and kick returner, ranking at the top of the unofficial depth chart at both positions all summer.

The Eagles must now decide who will return punts and kicks in 2022.

Of course, that doesn’t mean we won’t see an upgrade. Reagor was his first returnee of 2021, but didn’t do very well. He ranked 17th in the NFL for punt return average (7.3) for eligible players and 27th in the NFL for kick return average (21.3) for players who made at least 10 attempts.

We tracked every player lined up for the return of the Eagles through 16 practices at training camp.

Punt returner: Raygo, Greg Ward, Britain Covey, Kez Watkins, Lance Lenoir, Kenny Gainwell, Abonte Maddox, AJ Brown

kick returner: Jason Huntley, John Hightower, Covey, Devon Allen, Zach Pascal, Lenore, Watkins, Boston Scott

Of that group, Ward has joined the IR, Lenoir and Hightower are no longer on the team, and Covey and Allen are on the practice team.

“Remember, the roster isn’t just 53, is it?” said head coach Nick Siriani. “We have 70 players. I feel we have good options.”

Let’s take a closer look at internal candidates.

UK Covey: While Coby is on the practice team, it’s fairly easy to get him on the active roster and he’s the most experienced return man. It’s worth noting that it was to point out that we see the .

Sure, his experience is college-level, but Covey was an electric return man in Utah. In his college career, he averaged 11.9 yards per punt return with four touchdowns and 25.4 yards per kick return with another score.

In fact, kick-return plays are much less common in the NFL today. A more important job is the punt returner. But Covey was training he did both in camp and was clearly the smoothest punt in camp he was a returner. I never saw him bobble the ball. In the preseason, he returned his four punts (6.2) and his four kickoffs (23.0). Lieger and Huntley were the only other players to return this preseason.

Kez Watkins: The Eagles’ slot receiver got rep as a punt and kick returner during training camp, and with a speed of 4.35, it’s easy to see why. Last season, Watkins tied for second on the team with his eight kicks his returns, but he averaged 17.3 yards per return, worse than Rager. Watkins returned kicks and punts in Southern Mississippi from 2017 to 2019, punts he averaged 9.4 yards per return and kicks he averaged 20.3 yards per return. He took one punt home.

But Watkins will still play a big role on the offense in 2022 after AJ Brown joins, so the idea that he’s double duty on the return might be too much.

Kenny Gainwell: Never seen an Eagles running back work so well with a kick returner in camp, but he returned a punt. During his rookie season, Gainwell didn’t get a chance to return a punt, but he returned eight kickoffs for 137 yards (17.1). The Eagles punts this summer gave him a lot of rep as a returner, but Gainwell wasn’t as smooth as some of the others.

Boston Scott: Surprisingly, Scott didn’t get many reps as a returner this summer and did little work in the kicking game. ) is recorded. He also returned his 43 kickoffs for 928 yards (21.6 yards). Therefore, he probably kicks his return as he is one of the choices in his game.

Devon Allen: You might think the Olympian would be a threat in return games, but he left his mark on special teams as a preseason gunner. It was a game in Oregon in 2014 that I returned. That year he returned his eight innings with a 26.1 average. He mixed as an occasional kick returner this summer.

Abonte Maddox: Maddox occasionally gets a rep as a punt returner in practice, but he’s in his fifth season in the NFL and hasn’t earned a snap there. He returned punts and kicks in college, but he would only be an emergency option if the Eagles ever needed one.

Zac Pascal: He was once a respectable kick returner for Old Dominion, returning kicks 26 times in his NFL career (23.0). However, he has only managed to make his one comeback in each of the last two seasons and hasn’t gotten many reps this summer.

AJ Brown: no. Not worth it.

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