|Eagles sign returner Reno Mahe to 1-year deal|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 11 September 2007 13:48|
Reno Mahe signed a one-year contract with Philadelphia on Tuesday, giving the team a sure-handed returner with experience. J.R. Reed was released to make room for Mahe.
Who will return punts became a hot topic in Philadelphia because Greg Lewis and Reed each had costly fumbles in a 16-13 loss to Green Bay in the opener. Neither player had ever returned a punt in a regular-season game before Sunday.
Mahe had been out of the NFL since the Eagles declined to re-sign him following last season. The reserve running back was the team's primary returner on punts and kickoffs last season. He averaged 9.4 yards on 18 punt returns and fair-caught 12 others. In 2005, Mahe led the NFL with an average of 12.8 yards on 21 punt returns and had nine fair catches.
Overall, Mahe has averaged 9.4 yards on 64 punt returns in four seasons, while making 35 fair catches. His longest return is 44 yards. Mahe doesn't have breakaway speed and isn't a threat to go the distance, but he catches the ball and makes good decisions.
It's unknown whether Mahe will be ready when the Eagles host the Washington Redskins on Monday night.
Lewis was thrust into duty after seeing limited action as a returner in the preseason because the Eagles cut Jeremy Bloom.
A fifth-round pick in 2006, Bloom spent his rookie year on injured reserve and was hoping to make the team as a return specialist. The former Olympic skier averaged 7.8 yards on 10 punt returns in the exhibition games. The Eagles didn't want to carry six wide receivers and couldn't justify keeping Bloom because he wasn't spectacular.
Brian Westbrook is Philadelphia's best option, but he's such an indispensable part of the offense that coach Andy Reid is reluctant to risk him getting injured on special teams. Westbrook has 35 career punt returns, including two for touchdowns in 2003.
``If it comes down to it, I'll do it,'' Westbrook said after the loss to the Packers.
Reid admitted he was considering using Westbrook.
``There's a possibility on that,'' he said.
But Mahe's return means Westbrook probably won't be used in that role.
Teams have used valuable players on special teams in the past. Tim Brown served as the primary punt returner for the Oakland Raiders for the first nine seasons of his career, even though he was a Pro Bowl wide receiver. Deion Sanders was one of the best cornerbacks in the league, but returned punts throughout his career.
Ravens safety Ed Reed, a Pro Bowler, returned a punt for a touchdown in Monday night's loss to Cincinnati.