Originally posted on Eagles Eye  |  Last updated 3/26/13
The good news is we won't be spending a late draft pick on a punter.... The bad news is we've got another punter who can't tackle... Donnie Jones, who played for the Houston Texans last season, has agreed to a one-year deal with the Eagles. "Donnie Jones is a guy that we have admired over the last several years,” said Eagles general manager Howie Roseman. “He has one of the strongest legs in the entire NFL and we’re excited we had a chance to sign him. We watched a lot of tape on him and he’s coming off a very good season with Houston. We feel he’ll add a good element to our special teams units.” Yeah, okay... but Howie does not care about my pet peeve about punters who can't tackle---or worse, punters who fall down on purpose when being blocked. That's why I held on to the Aussie punter Sav Rocca for so long--- the man sought out contact, and nearly always wrestled his man down to the turf when he was last man standing. And he's still doing it for the Redskins...           Donnie Jones is a left-footed punter who gets distance...He is in his 8th year out of LSU, 6-2, 220, and was drafted in the 7th round in 2004 by Seattle... I find it ironic that the Eagles replaced veteran Mat McBriar (a notoriously poor tackler and block-shedder) with Donnie Jones----an equally lousy post-punt defender. This is not meant to take away from Jones' leg. The guy is in the prime of his life and he can still boom 'em. Punting is an extreme sport in itself. I need to remember that. Nobody expects an extreme sport specialist in snowboarding, for example, to also excel as a goalie in ice hockey... I get that. I simply feel that in football at the highest level, you should acknowledge that your punter is a part of the defense once the ball leaves his foot--- and that as such, he has a professional obligation to be at least serviceable in some aspects of pursuit and tackling. Mat McBriar was the worst defensive punter in that regard that I can remember from Eagles history, going all the way back to when King Hill (backup QB) was doing the punting for the Eagles in the '60's... McBriar at times last season looked like a toddler at Atlantic City running away in desperation from his first ocean wave... Punters who can't (or won't) tackle can cost you a key series...or a game. Here's the thing about Donnie Jones that bothers me: He injured his leg "trying" to tackle Pats receiver Wes Welker in a Monday night game last December. Jones has a fairly simple explanation for it, which he has provided to teammates inclined to give him grief--- “I told those guys, I said, ‘Look, you guys are NFL football players, I’m not,’” Jones said, via CSNHouston.com.  “So when I get a little bruise or something, it is what it is.  I know my role.  But it’s all in good fun.” Jones’ remarks give credence to the beliefs of those who view punters and kickers as a step below the folks who don’t kick the ball to make a living.  “Yeah, I mean I’m not an actual NFL ‘football’ player,” Jones said.  “I mean, come on.  We know our roles.  I had the same type thing in 2008.  I had to push DeSean Jackson out of bounds.  Somehow I chased him down, don’t know how I did it, and I fell and my knee blew up.  Every now and then you get one.  We’re punters and kickers.  We’re a different breed.” No, Donnie, you don't have to be a different breed. You can perk up and become a real part of a real defense. Why is punting or kicking exclusive to not being able to play another position on the field? Somewhere out there, Ray Guy or Chris Kluwe may be nodding their heads in agreement. Preaching to the choir, Donnie... I once watched him let Patrick Peterson run right by him without even making a half-hearted attempt at stopping him. Good punter, poor football player... Maybe I'm being too harsh, and too old-school here. This is the age of the specialist. No question Donnie Jones can boot a football 70 yards high in the air. That itself is worth a roster spot, assuming desired direction of said boomer. And hang time. And Jones can pooch the punt inside close dimensions, too. Jones specializes in the big bomb from deep in his own territory. Problem is, that kind of kick often results in a big return potential for the opposing team. I'm not saying Jones intentionally outkicks his coverage downfield, I'm just saying the gift he has for distance creates an unintended offensive opportunity for the receiving team to set up return lanes. This is okay for the Eagles as long as the punter himself can function as the 11th man on defense or at the very least the "closer"---last man defending just in case... Look, Donnie Jones averaged over 47 yards per punt for the Houston Texans last season. That's pretty impressive when you don't discount for game situations and such. I appreciate his distance and his talent. I am simply more willing to hire a guy who can average 40 yards a punt---and tackle. I don't want my kickers and punters to be a different breed...I want them to be football players.  
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