PHILADELPHIA -- Our position-by-position look at the Eagles will continue with the offense starting Monday. Today, we complete the defense/specialists portion of our assessment with a look at punter Donnie Jones.
It seems incredible to say it, but Jones may be the impending free agent the Eagles should most urgently re-sign for 2014.
You could argue in favor of a wide receiver -- Jeremy Maclin or Riley Cooper -- or safety Nate Allen and make a good case. They are or have been starters on offense and defense. But Jones, who signed a one-year deal last offseason, gave the Eagles reliability and occasional brilliance at a position almost no one notices until things go wrong.
Jones’ net average of 40.4 yards was the best in Eagles history. So were the 33 punts he placed inside the 20-yard line. Jones’ control and knack for coming up with the perfect kick when needed should not be overlooked.
One of the biggest plays of the season was Jones’ 70-yard punt against Washington. The Eagles were in the process of watching a 24-0, fourth-quarter lead disappear. A loss would have been their 11th in a row at Lincoln Financial Field.
After the offense was stopped in its own territory, Jones uncorked a punt that pinned Robert Griffin III & Co. at their own 4-yard line. The Eagles needed every yard -- Griffin drove the ball to the Eagles’ 18 before throwing a pass that was intercepted by Brandon Boykin.
Jones also placed a perfect punt against the New Orleans Saints in the playoff game at the Linc. Boykin, who specialized in getting downfield quickly, tapped it back toward teammate Roc Carmichael. Instead of downing the ball at the 1-yard line, Carmichael booted it into the end zone for a touchback.
At 33, Jones mastered the rugby style punt that he credited with improving his control and placement of the ball. He may not be the first guy you think of when considering the Eagles’ offseason priorities, but Jones’ contract should be one of the first things GM Howie Roseman checks off his to-do list before the free-agent market opens.