Eagles: Special teams not very special for April’s unit

Special teams has been a great source of pride for the Eagles since Bobby April’s arrival in 2010. The energetic coach has a knack for getting his players motivated on gamedays.

That’s why it was so surprising to see his unit struggle last week. Giants rookie David Wilson averaged 36.2 yards on kickoff returns and took one back 53 yards. The Eagles are second-worst in the NFL on kickoffs, giving up 427 yards.

“It looked poorly conceived, poorly coached, and poorly executed,” April said. “I’m responsible for all of those. I have to draw on all of the resources that I have as a coach and put them into play, and then resurrect us from these ashes.”

It was so bad that it led to what could have been a heated discussion between April and head coach Andy Reid.

“Would he have a right to be ticked off? Absolutely,” April said. “The tone or whatever was not anything but a conversation about what ways we can improve.”

Special teams often gets overlooked, but it shouldn’t. The Vikings won a crucial divisional game last week largely on the crux of two touchdown returns — one on a punt, the other on a kickoff.

So, what’s the key to improving?

It starts with an attitude adjustment. It also helps that special teams superstar Colt Anderson is back.

“Special teams is just an attitude and we have to get the right attitude and have confidence in what we’re doing, and we’re going to get that fixed,” said Anderson.

The rest revolves around getting down the field and making a play.

“In Seattle, they had a saying, ‘Not my man’ and I kind of live by that now,” said Adrian Moten, who was brought in Tuesday to bolster the unit. “Not my man on kickoff return and on kickoff I’m going to be a ballhawk.”

Will Birds continue to run the ball?

The Eagles ran the ball a lot in last week’s win. Well, a lot for them.

They called about 30 running plays (vs. 35 pass plays), including three straight runs from the 1-yard line. The Eagles didn’t get into the end zone there, but it seemed to be a drastic change of philosophy. So much so that even offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg was joking about it.

“I think that’s the first time in my life ever, playing or coaching, we’ve called three runs in a row,” he said.

Even though it wasn’t successful on that drive, the dedication to the run was a key factor in the Eagles’ 19-17 win. LeSean McCoy finished with 123 yards and kept the defense honest.

Will that trend continue?

“We have smart coaches, they are going to do things that work,” Brent Celek said.

The Steelers are usually stout against the run. This year, with Troy Polamalu and James Harrison missing time, they rank No. 14.

“Well, the first thing that comes to mind [is] they’ve had some players in and out there these first three ball games that they’ve played,” Mornhinweg said.

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