Can Britain Covey Keep His Spot On Birds 53?
Against the backdrop of Rihanna’s extravagant Super Bowl halftime performance at State Farm Stadium, the Eagles received a spark from an unlikely source.
With 93 seconds remaining until the break, Chiefs punter Tommy Townsend hoisted a 50-yard punt to the Eagles’ 16-yard line.
Waiting at the other end, Britain Covey – the lone player listed on the final injury report leading up to the game – fielded the ball, his eyes fixated upfield as the Eagles narrowly nursed a seven-point margin.
Under the brightest of lights, the undrafted rookie surveyed the landscape ahead of him before ultimately splitting the crease between Chiefs’ long snapper James Winchester and a lunging Jerick McKinnon and then accelerating into the open field.
Timely blocks from linebackers Christian Elliss and Patrick Johnson sprung him for a few extra yards before safety Nazeeh Johnson halted Covey’s progress at the Philadelphia Eagles’ 43-yard line.
In the grand scheme, Covey’s 27-yard punt return was merely a footnote in a seesaw battle among the NFL’s elite.
In retrospect, his sudden assertiveness proved to be a stark contrast to the reluctance Covey had exhibited earlier in the year.
For the better part of three months, the Eagles’ 5-foot-8, 173-pound wide receiver-turned-punt returner struggled to cement his status as a player worthy of a roster spot on a team primed for a deep postseason run.
His decision-making and conservative tendencies on returns were among the most prominent barriers for coordinator Michael Clay’s beleaguered special teams.
Sure, Covey had his moments, but it wasn’t really until the Week 13 thrashing over the Titans that he seemingly turned the corner, demonstrating qualities that Clay had steadfastly alluded to for much of the season.
The game, it appeared, had finally slowed down, allowing his inherent instincts and ability to manifest.
“Even more than punt return, is as a receiver, I would say,” Covey said following the Titans game. “Because every week, I play scout team receiver, as well as I’m up with the main guys. Just every day playing against these caliber of guys – James Bradberry, Slay, Marcus Epps – doing that every day makes things slow down for you, in whatever capacity you’re playing. And so, I would attribute it mostly to that, honestly. Playing scout team every day.”
It’s easy to forget that the unassuming Covey, who yielded 308 punt return yards on 33 opportunities last season, doubled as a wide receiver, despite accounting for just 19 snaps at the position as a rookie.
At Utah, Covey finished his career with over 2,000 receiving yards, 514 of which were logged during his final season.
But that doesn’t preclude Covey from perhaps seizing a larger piece of the proverbial pie this summer.
With veteran Zach Pascal opting to reunite with former Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon in the desert, and with Quez Watkins seeking redemption following an inconsistent season plagued by untimely gaffes, opportunities for Covey to establish himself as a pass-catcher hardly figure to be as scarce this time around.
The 26-year-old enters camp considerably buried in terms of pecking order, behind Watkins and free-agent addition Olamide Zaccheaus, and offers a largely one-dimensional skill set as a chain-moving slot receiver at his best navigating the short-to-intermediate levels of the field.
Quite possibly, Covey will need to demonstrate value as a pass-catcher to justify an elusive roster spot when slots will surely be at a premium.
Yet Covey has overcome seemingly insurmountable odds before, and it was around this time last year he was turning heads and beginning to make his mark.
Before dismissing the undersized second-year pro as merely a return specialist and minimizing his viability as a pass-catcher, wide receivers coach Aaron Morehead weighed in on Covey’s progression heading into Year 2.
“The thing with Covey is Covey’s a sponge,” he told ITB during his Super Bowl availability. “Covey’s gonna listen to everything you tell ‘em; every coaching point, every little detail, he’s gonna listen to it and do exactly what you say.
“There’s some good and bad with that; A, as a coach, you better be on your details. You can’t just miss things. You can’t say things that aren’t true. B, also there’s a time where I had to tell him – and he’s gotten so much better at understanding – there’s gray in the football world.
“And sometimes the gray is allowing you to get open the way that you need to get open. And Covey lived in the black and white. The biggest thing that’s he’s done is he’s learned to get into the gray and understand that it’s not gonna look like it looks on paper every time.
“It’s not gonna be perfect the way that we think that this route may look versus this coverage. Make it another coverage. Now you’re in the gray, what are you gonna do? How are you gonna respond to that? And he’s done such a good job of that.”
– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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