Typically, teams won't use one of their marquee offensive weapons as a kick or punt returner mainly as a safety precaution and to conserve energy. Last season, the Giants had the league's top kick returner in David Wilson, who is now expected to have a much greater role in the offense this season. Wilson is the early favorite to land the starting running back position, so will the Giants reduce his kick returning role or will they risk injury to their budding star by keeping him on the field in those situations?
One thing is for sure, it's going to be hard to tell Wilson, who admits his favorite part of playing football is returning kicks, that he will no longer be used at that position. Another person who won't like hearing that is special teams coordinator Tom Quinn who loves having Wilson as his return man.
"He's done it very well, but we'll have to see how it all comes down with where he is on the depth chart and what he's doing on offense. I don't think it's too much to do both, but I'm not making all the decisions," Quinn said. "I think it all depends on the game. There’s other guys that have done both, whether it was as a punt returner and a starter or a kickoff returner and a starter. It’s just how it all plays out."
As a rookie, Wilson led the NFL in return yards with 1,533 — about 300 more than the Tennessee Titans' Darius Reynaud (also a former Giant) who had the second highest total. Wilson also returned a kick for a 97 yard touchdown in Week 14.
The Giants have several other players who could potentially replace Wilson as the kick returner. Jerrel Jernigan, who was Wilson's co-kick returner last season, had several solid run backs. Rueben Randle was the team's main punt returner and could handle kicks if necessary, though the Giants did rank dead last in punt return yards with only 144.
Quinn is aware that punt return is an area the Giants absolutely must improve on this season. He mentioned cornerback Aaron Ross who returned to the Giants after a stint with the Jacksonville Jaguars as someone who could possibly return punts this season.
"We need to create more field position for our offense with our punt return unit and it's something that we've lagged [behind in] the last couple of years," Quinn said. "When Domenik [Hixon] was doing it earlier in '08 and '09 we were more productive, but we've got to get more production out of that punt return unit. That was a big focus for us all the way across the board [this spring] with the scheme and the technique and also the returner."
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