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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Philadelphia had to deal with Devin Hester on Monday night. This Sunday, Patrick Peterson comes to town.
Talk about a tough couple of games for the Eagles’ special teams.
Peterson is putting up Hester-like numbers in his rookie year with the Arizona Cardinals. In eight NFL games, Peterson has three punt returns for touchdowns, including a 99-yarder in overtime Sunday that sent the Cardinals past the St. Louis Rams.
“Hester is up here,” Eagles special teams ace Akeem Jordan said, raising his hand above his head. “He’s the best. The key is treating everyone like he’s Hester. This new guy, he’s good, real good. We’ll try to do the same things.”
The Eagles held Hester in check during their 30-24 loss to the Chicago Bears. He had one punt return for 19 yards and averaged 10 yards on three kickoff returns.
Philadelphia’s punt coverage team hasn’t been that busy this year. Through eight games, rookie punter Chaz Henry has punted just 20 times. Only nine have been returned for a total of 71 yards, an average of 7.9 yards per return, which is 11th best in the league.
“(Last week) against Hester it was the best I’ve ever had anywhere,” long-time special teams coach Bobby April said. “He’s really good and boy, the guys did a good job and played very well. It wasn’t anything I did, because we kept it very vanilla. He’s hard to stop and they’re hard to stop because they have a lot of really good players out there with him.”
Now comes Arizona, whose strength might also be in its return team.
“I would say after eight games and with what they were in college, he absolutely is,” April said of putting Peterson in Hester’s class. “That’s a compliment to both of them, because you’re talking about two exceptional athletes.
“Certainly, Hester’s abilities for longevity and to continue to do it and have a sharp edge make him unique. It takes a talent to have that tenacity, hunger and desire to go flying into the briar patch. There is a daredevil mentality that Hester has, and that’s why he gets those runs. Can Peterson maintain that? Who knows only the future will tell us that. All I know is at this moment, the kid has three (touchdowns) quicker than anybody.”
Hester had six returns for touchdowns his rookie year. Peterson is only the second rookie in the modern era to have at least three.
Peterson’s 99-yarder that lifted the Cardinals to their second victory of the season and first since opening day was a perfect example of that daredevil mentality. He fielded the ball on the 1, usually an error of judgment for a return man.
“He’s fielded some balls inside the 5 and those are things that as a football team, certainly you should take advantage of,” April said. “If you don’t sit back there and say this isn’t very good and this guy gave us a gift because he’s fielding it at the one, and you get down there and make a play.
“That’s as big of a play as you can make, 99 yards in overtime. C’mon that’s rare. That’s probably never happened before.”
NOTES: Eagles coach Andy Reid ruled out S Nate Allen (concussion) and OG Evan Mathis (toe) for Sunday’s game. . Defensive end Juqua Parker (ankle) is listed as questionable, but made it through Friday’s practice.
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