Return game could be special

Mike Potter reporting from Lehigh:

Special teams was a significant storyline during Eagles training camp last year, with DeSean Jackson and Quentin Demps being counted on to upgrade a return game that was dreadful in 2007.

But there hasn’t been nearly as much talk about special teams at Lehigh this year, partly because of the holdouts, injuries and drug busts that have turned training camp into a soap opera, and partly because the kick and return teams don’t inspire the same groans of dread that they briefly did.

There seems to be little doubt that those units will be, at worst, steady and reliable, with a reasonable expectation that they’ll end up being, well … special.

There certainly were a lot of positive signs this weekend.

David Akers put on a show yesterday, ending what amounted to a field-goal-kicking clinic with a 60-yarder from the left hash that split the uprights with plenty of room to spare.

Akers said afterward that he expects big things under new coordinator Ted Daisher.

“I think we’re gonna have very good special teams units this year,” Akers said. “Ted, one thing he says is that being average is unacceptable.”

It seems Daisher, who came to the Eagles after two season running special teams for the Cleveland Browns, has quickly earned the respect of the players. He’s been universally praised by players I’ve spoken to.

“We love Ted,” Demps said after practice today. “He’s an extremely passionate guy about special teams. We love him.”

Demps, who averaged 25.3 yards on kickoff returns last season, is in the mix with corner Ellis Hobbs and rookie wideout Jeremy Maclin for the job this year. All three have the ability to break long returns routinely. Hobbs excelled at the job during his time in New England, and Maclin was one of the top return men in the nation during his college career.

Demps, Hobbs and Maclin split reps during Saturday’s special teams session. All three looked mighty explosive in their returns. If the blocking comes together, the Eagles will be starting with good field position often after kickoffs.

It seems like only yesterday that Greg Lewis and J.R. Reed were fumbling away that 2007 game against Green Bay, doesn’t it? The Birds have gone from dragging Reno Mahe out of retirement in desperation to having a trio of home-run hitters.

Demps seems unlikely to be the primary returner now that he’s expected to start defensively.

“In my heart I want to return for Ted Daisher,” Demps said. “I really do, because I believe I could be really good for him. At the same time, I’ve got to face reality knowing that it’s hard to be a defensive starter, especially a safety, and return kicks.”

Hobbs may end up being the guy, having averaged 27.7 yards per kickoff return with three TDs during his four seasons with the Patriots.

So, who do you want to see win the job? Or would you be comfortable with any of the three?