NFC East: Brad Wing

PHILADELPHIA -- Donnie Jones is glad he didn't find a desk job, and so are the Philadelphia Eagles.

The punter, who has won NFC special teams player of the week for each of his last two performances, was released by the Seattle Seahawks in 2005. Jones figured his NFL career was over after one season.

"I didn't play very well," Jones said Wednesday. "I had a 32-yard net. The last game I played was just awful. They put me on the practice squad. Two days before camp, going into the 2005 season, that's when I got cut. I thought I was done. I easily could have been out of the league."

Jones majored in finance at LSU, so he started calling people, looking for a job in the real world.

"One guy I talked to in New York, he told me he was basically living in a box, making nothing," Jones said. "But I was looking at all options. The last game I played, I got booed out of the stadium. People were telling me I belonged behind a desk, in a day job. So I got on the phone and started calling."

It was another LSU contact, a guy named Nick Saban, who helped Jones find work. Saban was coaching the Miami Dolphins at the time and signed his former punter. Early in the season, Dolphins veteran Matt Turk was injured and Jones had a job for the next two years.

He went on to five years in St. Louis before spending the 2012 season with the Houston Texans.

It was last year when Jones learned the rugby-style kick that has helped him elevate his game. Ironically, he learned it from the father of punter Brad Wing.

"I remember his dad saying, 'I don't know how long I can help you, because some day Brad might be your competition,'" Jones said.

Sure enough, Jones signed with the Eagles in the offseason and they brought Brad Wing in to compete for the job.

The rugby punt, which involves making contact with the end of the ball, has allowed Jones more control. It is a key factor in helping him drop punts inside the 20-yard line.

"More and more guys were starting to do it," Jones said. "It took a little while. It's been a huge asset for us."

Jones dropped seven punts inside the 20 Sunday against Arizona. Two weeks earlier, against Washington, his 70-yard punt helped the Eagles defense protect a 24-16 lead late in the fourth quarter.

Jones was named punter of the week for both efforts by ESPN's Mark Simon, who rates NFL punters every week. Simon took up the cause in order to focus on an often overlooked position. Jones' play has been impossible to overlook during the Eagles' four-game winning streak.

"Donnie putting it inside the 20 is really unbelievable," Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. "He's as big of a reason for us to have some success defensively as anybody."
The local broadcast of the Eagles' game in Jacksonville Saturday night included a recorded segment in which Chip Kelly talked about how tough it would be to cut players this week. These are young men who dream about playing in the NFL, Kelly said, and you have to tell them that dream isn't coming true, at least in Philadelphia.

It's something Kelly didn't have to do at Oregon, where he could have a virtually unlimited number of players on his roster.

While informing the players was no doubt tough, the decisions don't get really difficult until Saturday's final cut to 53.

On Sunday afternoon, the Eagles cut 10 players: defensive linemen Eddie McClam and Daryell Walker, offensive linemen Nic Purcell and Isaac Remington, tight ends Derek Carrier and Will Shaw, wide receiver Nick Miller, long snapper James Winchester, cornerback Eddie Whitley (waived injured) and punter Brad Wing.

The Eagles' roster stands at 78. They must get to 75 by Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern.