In 2006, the Philadelphia Eagles drafted Olympic skier Jeremy Bloom in the fifth round to be their kick returner. Unfortunately, Bloom was injured for the season and the possibility of having the best returner since Brian Mitchell was put on hold.
In 2007, after much anticipation, Bloom was healthy, but ended up being released before the regular season begun. The crazy part was, he was part of the final cut, without a legitimate returner to replace him.
Andy Reid decided that he would give the ultra-talented Greg Lewis a chance. He also brought back safety J.R. Reed to help out, as well.
In case you don't remember, that decision caused disaster as soon as the Eagles regular season started in Green Bay. Both Lewis and Reed fumbled punts that immediately resulted in low Green Bay scores, and ultimately lost the game, which sparked an 8-8 season.
Reid quickly addressed the situation by re-signing the most exciting two-yard return man in NFL history, Reno Mahe. Obviously, there was no confidence in the special team's ability to obtain decent field position on returns.
In response, the Eagles drafted wide receiver DeSean Jackson and safety Quinten Demps in 2008. Both players gave the special team a spark not seen since 2002. The downside is Demps and Jackson are expected to eventually move on to primarily play the positions they were drafted for.
Learning from his mistakes, Andy Reid seems determined to ensure that 2007 doesn't happen again during his tenure.
Here's a look at players acquired this 2009 offseason that, according to scouts, are very competent return men:
- Jeremy Maclin WR: First round draft pick
- Victor Harris CB: Fifth round draft pick
- Brandon Robinson WR: Sixth round draft pick
- Courtney Robinson CB: Undrafted rookie
- Marcus Thigpen RB/WR: Undrafted rookie
- Ellis Hobbs CB: Acquired via trade
These acquisitions give the Eagles a total of eight players going into training camp, who are dangerous return men. Four of those players (Jackson, Demps, Maclin, and Hobbs) are pretty much a lock to make the 53-man final roster. The other four players' fate may be determined by their return ability.
As 2007 pointed out, that decision can make a huge difference between wins and losses.