Josh Huff shows Eagles he can make big plays

Rookie Josh Huff, the Eagles' third-round pick out of Oregon, returns a kickoff against the Bears.
Rookie Josh Huff, the Eagles' third-round pick out of Oregon, returns a kickoff against the Bears. (YONG KIM / Staff)
Posted: August 14, 2014

Josh Huff had already ditched his jersey. He put his helmet down on a bench. There was no name across his back to be read, no number to match to a page on a program.

But the fans who leaned over the railing at Franklin Field to dangle items for his signature Sunday called to him by name. The rookie wide receiver shed his anonymity like so many defenders during a 102-yard kickoff return Friday night against the Bears.

"Anytime you have a return like that and be a possible game-changer, of course fans are going to latch on and give you their full support," Huff said.

Huff captured the imagination at a position where the Eagles have had few saviors recently. The last Eagles player to return a kickoff for a touchdown in a regular-season game was Quintin Demps in 2008. The Eagles have ranked no better than 25th in the NFL in average yards per kickoff return in each of the last five seasons.

Nolan Carroll began the preseason atop the Eagles' depth chart at kickoff returner. An injury kept the cornerback out of the first game, and Huff grabbed the moment.

He began his TD run by dashing through a wide hole straight ahead. To gain a path up the sideline, though, he had to switch hands with the ball in full stride and deliver a stiff-arm to kicker Robbie Gould.

"It's good to know you've got a kick returner who can finish things," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. "If you don't have that type of speed, or you're not as physical, you'll get through the first wall, but then you're going to get tackled on the 40. Which isn't bad, but we'll take the return for a touchdown any day."

Huff was not a mystery to Kelly, who recruited and coached the third-round pick at Oregon. In an Eagles offense flush with options, special teams will be his best chance to show his promise to a larger audience.

"I feel like I proved a lot to my teammates - showed them that I can be counted on to make plays and swing the momentum," said Huff, who returned three other kicks for a total of 41 yards.

Huff dropped the football almost as soon as he crossed the goal line Friday, but it did not stay out of his possession for long.

As a kid in Houston, Huff carried a football everywhere, even to bed. His father, Donald Simpson, would try to take it away over his protests.

This one he will part with easier. Huff has a couple of ideas in mind for the souvenir. One of them is sending it to his dad.


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