Two days after special teams miscues cost the Eagles the season opener in Green Bay, the team shored up its return game by re-signing Reno Mahe on Tuesday evening.
Mahe, a reserve running back for the Eagles from 2003 to 2006, led the NFL with an average punt return of 12.8 yards in 2005. During his career, he has returned 64 punts for the Eagles, averaging 9.4 yards per return.
Head coach Andy Reid said Monday that catching the ball was the most important thing for his returners going forward, and Mahe is a sure-handed option. He has fumbled on a punt return only once in his career.
To make room for Mahe on the roster, the Eagles released safety J.R. Reed. In his first-ever game as a punt returner and on his third opportunity of the game, Reed muffed a punt that was recovered by the Packers at the Eagles' 31-yard line with 59 seconds remaining in the game. The Packers won the game on a Mason Crosby 42-yard field goal with just six seconds left. In the first quarter, Greg Lewis fumbled a punt that was recovered in the end zone for a touchdown.
Mahe, who was living in Utah prior to his signing, jumped on a flight to Philadelphia early Tuesday morning and worked out for team personnel. He will not wear No. 34, as he did in his first stint as an Eagle. Fullback Jason Davis asked Mahe to keep his number.
Mahe made the team as an undrafted free agent in 2003 after an outstanding career as a wide receiver at BYU. The team quickly switched him to running back, and he found a niche in the return game, averaging 9.2 yards on six punt return opportunities. He became the teams full time-kickoff returner in 2006, averaging 22.23 yards on 30 returns.
I don't think anybody would have ever actually been wishing that Reno Mahe was on their football team, but after the opening day disaster on special teams, many Eagles fans were doing just that. Luckily for Mahe, he will get a pass if he does not break any big returns. The only thing he has to really concern himself with, is make sure to catch the football. If Greg Lewis, and J.R. Reed were able to do that, they would have beaten Greenbay. So remember Reno, make sure to CATCH THE FOOTBALL.
The really sad thing about this, is that the Eagles have been unable to find a good solution to the return game in years. ever since Brian Mitchell left, the Eagles have tried, and failed with several players to get a good return game going. Dexter Wynn, James Thrash, Ryan Moats, Reno Mahe, Rod Hood, Jeremy Bloom, Bruce Perry, Lamar Gordon, Greg Lewis, and J.R. Reed have all been in that return game mix at one time since Mitchell left. None of these guys has been able to stick as the return specialist, for one reason or another, and this needs to be addressed next off season.
Mahe is an ok band aid for now, but after this season it is time to get a real returner. Somebody who not only secures the football well, but can do something with the ball after he fields it.
As mad as I am at J.R. Reed's boneheaded decision to run after that ball, I feel bad for him getting cut again. He has now been cut five times in the past year, including twice from the Eagles. He was a decent kick returner in 2004, and had that strange leg injury hopping a fence in the following off season. It is amazing that he has even stepped back on the field, and I hope he gets another chance on another team. You can be sure, it wont be as a punt returner.