PHILADELPHIA – Quez Watkins, Julio Jones, and Olamide Zaccheaus all got opportunities to complement the Eagles’ dynamic receiving duo of A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith. None delivered to the point that they will be expected back in the 2024 season.
The Eagles will again be looking to uncover and develop productive backups at receiver and have already started that process with futures deals for 2023 undrafted rookie Joseph Ngata, late PS addition Griffin Hebert, and newcomers Shaquan Davis, Jacob Harris, and Austin Davis.
One name who is rarely mentioned is punt returner Britain Covey but that might be about to change. An exclusive rights free agent, there is little question that the Eagles will be tendering Covey for the 2024 season.
At 5-foot-8 and generously listed at 173 pounds, Covey is often pigeonholed because of his lack of size but the third-year Utah product had a breakout season as a returner, proving once and for all that he can make plays with the football in his hands.
He led the NFL in punt return yards (725) this past season, averaging 14.4 yards per return, and was the only player in the NFL with multiple 50-plus yard returns. In-season head coach Nick Sirianni started calling Covey a weapon as the narrative started turning.
Now it’s time for Covey to lobby for more.
“The last thing I feel like this team needed [in 2023] was someone who wanted more playing time or the ball or something, so I trust them, and I just hope next year I get some opportunities,” Covey said.
His success on the field helped fuel that mindset with Covey as did two other developments: two other teams trying to convince Covey to file a change of address form, one being New England, according to a league source, and quarterback Jalen Hurts encouraging the offensive coaching staff to get Covey more involved.
“I was considering it,” Covey said of potentially leaving when a training camp injury allowed Howie Roseman to play roster gymnastics with Covey. “But I chose to stay and I’m really glad I did. I love Philly and I love the Eagles organization so I’m really glad I stayed, and I don’t want to be anywhere else.”
The final step is adding the playmaking ability on returns to the slot on offense, where route-running and short-area quickness can be a difference maker.
New offensive coordinator Kellen Moore also has a history of utilizing receivers who can handle slot work well.
“If you’re one of the better punt returners in the league it’s not just because you’re good at punt return, it’s because you obsess over it, you won your role, and you find ways to do it well,” Covey said. “I would do the same thing as a receiver and I think they know that, too.
“It’s all in it’s time. … Just obsess over your role if that’s all you’re doing. If my role’s bigger next year, I’ll do the same thing.”