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The Eagles are keeping their returner plans close to the vest | Early Birds

The special teams coordinator has used a returner-by-committee approach during the preseason, but wouldn't divulge whom he plans to use once the games count.

Eagles wide receiver Jalen Reagor about to field a kickoff during a preseason game Aug. 19.
Eagles wide receiver Jalen Reagor about to field a kickoff during a preseason game Aug. 19.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

Good morning, Eagles fans. Happy Friday. As usual, I come with some good news: The countdown to the season opener in Atlanta has reached single digits. The first real action of the Nick Sirianni era will reveal a significant amount of information that his staff has shrouded in secrecy to this point.

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Special secret

Michael Clay has a plan in place for whenever the Eagles return their first kick of the regular season.

Just don’t ask him about it.

The Eagles special teams coordinator used a returner-by-committee approach in the preseason, but wouldn’t divulge whom he envisions being the preferred guy fielding punts and kickoffs once the games count.

“We don’t want to give Atlanta a special insight, but as you saw, we rotate a lot of guys through preseason,” Clay said Thursday. “There were a lot of guys that have dynamic speed, dynamic cutting abilities. So, we have a good thought in terms of a coaching staff of who we’re going to throw out there, but we have a nice room to pick from.”

Among the guys remaining on the active roster, Jalen Reagor and Greg Ward split punt-return duties during the preseason, and Reagor and Quez Watkins handled kickoffs.

Jason Huntley had the team’s best kick return of the preseason, going for 35 yards against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he’s on the practice squad going into Week 1.

Reagor was a part of the team’s punt-return rotation last year, specializing in situations in which an actual return was likely. When the chances of a fair catch were higher, the Eagles deployed Ward.

Clay conceded that part of whom he uses will hinge on who is available to him and who is too involved in the offensive game plan to take on the extra workload.

“We’re able to have, at least on this team, a lot of returners that are good enough to do it and be effective at doing it,” Clay said. “So, for me, it’s just making sure they’re confident and they’re ready to go out there, regardless of the situation they’re in.

“You never know what’s going to happen. There could be an explosive play on offense, and we can’t use them at the special teams situation. That’s why we have another guy in the holster ready to go to excel at the same, maybe even better at that level.”

What you need to know about the Eagles

  1. Zach Ertz broke his prolonged silence this week to address an offseason full of trade rumors. As Jeff McLane reports, the veteran tight end now wants to stay in Philadelphia and retire as an Eagle.

  2. Jordan Mailata was named the starting left tackle earlier this week. Josh Tolentino writes about how the Australia native won the competition against Andre Dillard.

  3. Gardner Minshew and Nick Sirianni first met on a basketball court in 2019. The Eagles’ newest quarterback still remembers a heated game of HORSE he played against his new coach leading into that year’s draft.

  4. KC Joyner looks at how the Eagles offense stacks up to the rest of the NFC East.