When the Philadelphia Eagles claimed Jason Huntley off of waivers back in 2020, it wasn’t to be an everydown back. The Birds already had Miles Sanders to fill the role with Boston Scott in place as a solid enough 1B.
No, Huntley was claimed for one reason alone: Speed.
You see, Huntley wasn’t considered a “can’t miss” prospect coming out of New Mexico State and didn’t even stick around with the Detroit Lions advertising a single summer with the team. At best, he seemed like a change of pace back with a bit of pass-catch upside, but where Huntley’s potential value lied was on special teams, where he provided consistent value with the Aggies.
Over his four years of action in the Cactus State, Huntley returned 59 kicks for 1,521 yards and five touchdowns. While he wasn’t the biggest back on the block, the 4.37 40 time he ran at his Pro Day that would have ranked first among RBs at the Combine largely made up for it.
And yet, in the NFL, that special teams prowess never quite came to fruition; Huntley returned just five kicks for an average yards-per-return of 24 over six games with the Eagles, and he didn’t exactly make up for it in 2022’s preseason. Other than a speedy 67-yard run in the preseason finale that showed off his jets, Huntley’s summer was a quiet one, and his reported release came as little surprise.
Who will be returning kicks for the Eagles this fall? Who really knows, but unless Huntley lands on the practice squad and is called up for Week 1 versus the Detroit Lions, it probably won’t be the pride of New Mexico State.
The Philadelphia Eagles can’t count on Jalen Reagor to return kicks this fall.
In 2021, when it became apparent that Jalen Reagor wasn’t going to be a difference maker on offense, Nick Sirianni and special teams coordinator Michael Clay decided to give the former first-round pick out of TCU an opportunity in the return game.
On paper, it wasn’t the worst idea; coming out of college, Reagor was lauded for his ability to make plays in space, and his YAC-ability on screens certainly played a part in Howie Roseman’s decision to select him with the 21st overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Unfortunately, much like seemingly every other aspect of Reagor’s career in South Philly, his run didn’t quite go as planned.
While Regaor did rip off a punt return touchdown during his rookie season on one of his four attempts, his 2021 campaign didn’t prove so lucky, as his yards-per-return dropped from 23.5 to 7.3 – which is totally predictable considering he returned 27 more kicks – and he didn’t rip off a run longer than 22 yards on the season. Reagor showed little natural touch for the role and looked far more like a project than a difference maker on special teams 2009 DeSean Jackson style.
Even if Reagor is the obvious choice to return kicks if Huntley and Britain Covey don’t make the team, that doesn’t mean it’s the right one.
Much like their safety and running back positions, the Eagles’ special teams unit is a work in progress. They don’t necessarily have the best depth around and could theoretically play the waiver wire game and/or use the post-roster trimdown free agency period to address the position with more proven performers. With that being said, if Huntley wasn’t worth keeping around just because he could return kicks better than any other performer on the team, Reagor shouldn’t be afforded the first crack at filling his shoes, as he’s an objectively worse player in the role.