Even though Lawrence Tynes was replaced by Josh Brown at kicker this offseason, the New York Giants special teams unit seems to be in good shape after the first game of the preseason against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Brown missed a 38-yard field goal in the game, a distance that Tynes had always been able to hit with regularity. The new kicker did connect on a 47-yarder, though, a distance that Tynes had struggled with during his tenure in New York. Tynes did make some big kicks during his career with the Giants (which started in 2007), including kicks in NFC Championship games to send his team to the Super Bowl.
After a season in which he was extremely consistent from inside 40 yards, Tynes was let go by general manager Jerry Reese and replaced by Brown, a kicker who didn't play until late in the season with the Cincinnati Bengals. Even so, Brown is a quality kicker that could bring a new element to the special teams. Whereas Tynes struggled to hit kicks from over 45-yards, Brown has a much stronger leg and can hit long kicks from time to time.
Punter Steve Weatherford will return this season, and he is widely considered one of the better players at his position in the NFL. Weatherford is great at placing the ball inside the 20-yard line and pinning the opposition against the goaline. An improved Giants defense should help to make those kicks stand out even more, as long scoring drives were all too familiar to the unit last season.
In terms of the return game, the Giants have a ton of options heading into the coming weeks. David Wilson was the league-leader in kick return yardage last season, but a more prominent role in the offense is in store for him in 2013. This makes his availability on special teams a question mark. He can still contribute on a consistent basis, but it's doubtful that he'll be on the field to return every kickoff.
Fellow running back Michael Cox could be an option to replace Wilson on kicks, reports Kieran Darcy, as he has plenty of speed to burn and may not find much playing time behind Andre Brown and Da'Rel Scott during the regular season. His explosiveness takes a back seat to Wilson's, but Cox is a good athlete that should be able to rip off a few lengthy runs.
The team's punt return situation is in a state of flux, but that doesn't necessarily mean special teams coordinator Tom Quinn needs to worry. After finishing last in the NFL in punt return yardage last season, Quinn will look for one of Rueben Randle, Jayron Hosley or Kevin Hardy to take the job during the preseason. Randle handled punt return duties last season, though, so his inefficiencies could result in a change.
Despite personnel changes aplenty, Quinn's special teams unit looks to be in good shape. Brown has the potential to be an upgrade over Tynes, Weatherford should see even more praise due to a stronger defense this season and both return games should be consistent next season if the right players are put into positions to succeed.
Head coach Tom Coughlin loves a strong special teams unit, so he'll be sure to squeeze every bit of potential out of the group by the time the first week of the regular season rolls around.
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