PHILADELPHIA — As Bill Belichick broke down the Philadelphia Eagles during his weekly press conference, he went though a list of players that have played integral roles toward the franchise becoming a powerhouse in the NFL.
Belichick mentioned nine players specifically (not counting the entire offensive line and pass rush), so Covey’s shoutout was a bit of a head scratcher. Of course, there’s a reason why Belichick specifically brought up Covey.
“The Patriots were a team that were really interested in me at draft time,” Covey said this week. “Obviously I have such great respect and admiration for him (Belichick) and just what the Patriots organization have done for people my size. I say 75% of the film I watch is Danny Amendola, Was Welker, Julian Edelman. I just have great admiration and respect.”
Covey, listed at 5-feet-8 and 173 pounds, sticks out like a sore thumb on the Eagles roster. He’s not much bigger than most people that don’t play professional football for a living, yet Belichick mentioned his explosiveness when discussing the Eagles special teams.
Belichick focuses on the little things excessively, a huge reason why his special teams have been very good throughout his tenure with the Patriots. He wasn’t omitting Covey from that list, even if the Eagles punt returner technically isn’t on the 53-man roster.
“That’s very kind (of Bill),” Covey said. “From Week 6 on, we (special teams) were top two in the league. It’s not just me, it’s the unit that really started to pick things up and performed well.”
Covey’s explosiveness hasn’t stood out in the social media world, yet his value to the Eagles grew has his rookie season went on. Tasked with only being the kick and punt returner for the Eagles, Covey finished with 33 punt returns for 308 yards, an average of 9.3 yard per return. His 33 returns were second in the NFL and his 9.3 average was eighth. Of players that had 10-plus punt returns in the NFL from Week 8 to the end of the regular season, Covey was sixth in the NFL in punt return average at 11.6.
That success carried over to the postseason, as Covey averaged 17.5 yards per return — including a 27-yard return in Super Bowl LVII that led to an Eagles field goal just prior to halftime.
For being strictly a returner on the Eagles, Covey developed into a pretty good one over the course of his rookie season. Shadowed being the likes of Brown, Smith, Quez Watkins, and Olamide Zaccheaus at wide receiver, getting targets isn’t exactly easy for Covey.
He’s the No. 5 wide receiver on the team, yet his role is invaluable in getting the Eagles back to the Super Bowl.
“I like to think of myself as a realist. I mean, we all do right?” Covey said. “I understand on this team my role won’t be to get many reps at receiver because of the guys that we have. I know that the coaches trust me out there.
“Sometimes it’s hard to not be able to show it because ‘people think I’m just taking a roster spot’ as a return man and not adding anything as a receiver. I know one day I’ll be able to get that chance.
“And that’s what they (the Eagles and Patriots) liked about me. They knew the potential I had out there as well.”
Because of roster construction, Covey didn’t make the 53-man roster for the second consecutive year. The Patriots could have just claimed Covey on waivers if they liked, but they would have given up a roster spot for him in order to do so. Covey was also battling a hamstring injury throughout the preseason, making it too big a risk for any team to claim him.
“The realistic part of my mind knew what was gonna happen,” Covey said. “It was so disappointing to miss the preseason. It was so sad for me. That was gonna be my real opportunity to show as a receiver and solidify my spot that I knew I had.
“But then looking at it, if I were a GM I would have done the same thing. No one was gonna claim someone who was injured for three weeks and then missed the whole preseason. There’s just too big a risk. You get to keep multiple people because no one was gonna claim you.
“I totally understand. Howie (Eagles general manager Howie Roseman), Nick (Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni), Lurie (Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie), they’re so good at what they do. But it’s hard to be in that position, you know?”
Covey will likely be on the practice squad for the first three weeks before the Eagles have to make a decision to put him on the 53-man roster for the rest of the season, similar to last year. He started his rookie season on the practice squad and found a way to stick around all year.
The Eagles have just four wide receivers on the active roster at the moment, so something will have to give. Covey is a better player this time around — and the Eagles (and Patriots) notice.
“The only thing that felt different is the confidence level,” Covey said. “Whatever happened, I know I can play at this level. Last year, the first five or six games (as a rookie) you adjust to the speed. Everybody does, and the rookies — they learn, they adjust.
“Having a full season, you get the knowledge of ‘I can do this.’ I like to think about Darren Sproles, his rookie year it was the same thing. It’s a learning curve. So I like to think that confidence was the only difference.”
This content was originally published here.