Sunday, May 14, 2006

Early Returns For Eagles

Eagles fans shouldn't get too hung up on depth charts. Players who are listed on top during minicamp don't always find themselves starting when the season begins.
Still, there has to be some pecking order. That's why following Sunday's morning practice, special teams coach John Harbaugh said that as of now, Reno Mahe is the starting punt returner. Now Mahe led the league last year with a 12.8 average, but that was slightly misleading. He returned only 21 punts, one more than the minimum needed to be listed among the leaders. And seven of those returns came in a 42-0 loss to Seattle.
So Harbaugh has anointed Mahe, but he shouldn't be penciled in ink.
"Reno is the starting returner," Harbaugh said. "He has earned it. "He was the leading punt returner in the league last year so he's our punt returner."
Then came one disclaimer.
"But I think there is some great competition for the job," Harbaugh said.
Book it that there will be plenty of competition. The Eagles didn't use a fifth round pick on Jeremy Bloom to have him not be a central figure in the return game.
Bloom, if he stays healthy, could be a return man on punts and kickoffs. And remember that J.R. Reed, who missed last year after damaging the peroneal nerve, which affects movement and sensation in the lower left leg and foot, could be a kick or punt returner.
Harbaugh said if the seaon started now, that Mahe and Bruce Perry would be the kick returners. Again, if Bloom performs to his ability and Reed shows he is indeed back, the Eagles could have one of their deepest return units in some time.
And Harbaugh and coach Andy Reid will have some of the most difficult decisions to make.

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