|Eagles still undecided on punt returner|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 11 September 2007 13:17|
When the Philadelphia Eagles host the Washington Redskins on Monday night, one of those players could be returning punts. Or, it could be someone else. It probably won't be Greg Lewis or J.R. Reed.
Despite reports the team reached out to Mahe and Bloom, no move was announced Tuesday. The Eagles are off again Wednesday, so they have extra time to make a decision before resuming practice Thursday.
Who will return punts is a hot topic in Philadelphia because 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 has 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's sure-handed and makes good decisions.
Bloom, a fifth-round pick in 2006, was among the final cuts in the preseason after spending his rookie year on injured reserve. 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.
Westbrook is Philadelphia's best option. He has 35 career punt returns, including two for touchdowns in 2003. But Westbrook is such an indispensable part of the offense that coach Andy Reid is reluctant to risk him getting injured on special teams.
``If it comes down to it, I'll do it,'' Westbrook said after the loss to the Packers.
Reid admitted he now is considering using Westbrook.
``There's a possibility on that,'' he said.
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.