The struggles of the New York Giants' special teams this season have been well documented. A closer look reveals failures all across the board in the special teams department. Damontre Moore’s block punt last week is the team’s first special teams highlight since week one of the preseason where the very same Damontre Moore blocked a punt against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In terms of lowlights, the most recent belongs to Jerrel Jernigan, who fumbled the opening kickoff last week against the Oakland Raiders, setting up an Oakland touchdown. Special Teams Coordinator Tom Quinn was asked what went through his head after Jernigan’s “mind boggling” play.
“I’m wondering if my name is Murphy. It’s mind boggling,” explained Quinn. “The number one job of special teams is ball security. When they kick it off to us or punt it to us, we’ve got to give it to our offense and to have that happen it’s been a long time since I’ve seen that happen. That’s crazy. And then it bounces off his leg into their hands and they start running it back, so it was disappointing. We’ve got to be better at ball security, obviously.”
When asked if he would stay with Jernigan as the returner, Quinn noted that he would have reps on both punts and kickoffs. He later acknowledged that Michael Cox and Rueben Randle are the other two options.
The Giants have not had a quality kick returner since David Wilson took over the role last season. Prior to that the only two names that come to mind are Domenik Hixon and Ron Dixon.
The Giants are averaging just 21.1 yards per return on kickoffs, and 6.7 yards on punt returns. Additionally, the Giants longest punt return on the season is 14 yards; only the Houston Texans with a season long of 12 yards are worse. Randle’s reliable hands are most likely the only reason he is the punt returner as he has consistently shown the ability to gain five or occasionally 10 solid yards, but has never broken one longer than 14 yards. Though it is unlikely to see Tom Coughlin replace Randle on punt returns, Michael Cox could see work at kick returner. Cox is a strong and athletic back that is unlikely to take anything to the house, but can certainly help increase the kick return average with tough and smart running.
Unfortunately for the Giants, this would only solve half of the problem as their coverage unit has also struggled, despite playing better as of late. The Giants are allowing 27.1 yards per kick return, which is third worst in the NFL. The punt coverage is not any better, allowing an average of 19.2 yards per return, which is second worst in the NFL behind only the Washington Redskins. The Giants have also allowed a league worst three punt return touchdowns.
All of this coupled with an inconsistent Steve Weatherford and Josh Brown, the only strength of the Giants special teams looks to be Damontre Moore. Though Brown has performed better as of late, Quinn did share some thoughts on Weatherford.
“He over thought it. I try to impress on these guys that we’ve got to be the best wind kickers because you guys have been out on our practice field and it’s windy almost every day and so for us not to perform is disappointing. I told him and he is disappointed and he is frustrated. I think he over thought it and tried to make too many adjustments instead of just doing what we do in practice because we had wind last week and he had a good week of practice. He was frustrated with it and we are because he’s got to perform," Quinn said.
Whatever the issues may be, the Giants need to clean up their act on the special teams if they want to rally into the playoffs. The defense is having a tough enough time carrying the offense; added stress from special teams will not help the cause. Look for a more focused group from Tom Quinn against the Packers on Sunday.
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