Preseason is over for the New York Football Giants, thankfully. General consensus can agree that punter Steve Weatherford, while he didn’t really need to put in the extra work, is a huge asset in blue — punting 28 times in four games for an average of 47.63 yards; eight of those were inside the 20 and two for touchbacks. His numbers have only improved over his career. His work isn’t the only body out there that deserves accolades.
The Giants are working with a new kicker in Josh Brown. Any long-time fan of this team will easily have automatic panic attacks as the field goal unit runs onto the field. Some even act out the last moments of Super Bowl XXV as Scott Norwood kicked the shot heard ‘round the world. It’s part of being a Big Blue fan. However, in the preseason, he made 13 of 15 field goals (missed a 38-yarder against Pittsburgh & a 53-yarder versus the Jets, but made a 50-yarder in that game) and all four of his extra points. Of 19 kickoffs, his average was 68.9 yards with 10 touchbacks; the other nine that were returned had an average of 25 return yards. This is pretty consistent when eyeing his career stats, butterfly gut feelings aside.
As for returners on the blue side, running back Michael Cox is earning his keep with the highest return average of 30.8 yards and most of the duties back there. This also keeps starting tailback, David Wilson from having to stand back there and risk a special teams injury. Defensive back Charles James somewhat handled the punt returns with a little less caution and hasn’t held onto the ball as well — he now finds himself on the Practice Squad.
Perhaps what was also a bit of a pleasant surprise was the coverage teams. Besides keeping penalties to a minimum (stressed annually by head coach Tom Coughlin), they created turnovers and opportunities for the offense. Rookie safety Cooper Taylor wrote a bit of his experience from this past game versus the Patriots (and finally getting out there) in his blog, shared on Giants.com.
“…the game itself was definitely a learning experience for me with my first action in the NFL. It’s definitely faster paced a more intense game than I’ve ever played before. I got a lot out of it, made some plays, made some tackles, and then it’s back to the film”, Taylor wrote. “On the fumble, it was kind of my first rep in there on the punt team. I got an opportunity to make a play and was able to execute it. It was an exciting time to finally make a play. I was glad I could do it to help the team at that spot.”
As a unit, ST coordinator Tom Quinn and his assistant, Larry Izzo have their players ready to go out and attack and be more physical, even intimidating. Has anyone not heard long-snapper Zak DeOssie’s in-your-face special teams’ battle cry? While funny to hear, it has to be infectious to the other 10 players gunning for the returner or his blockers.
This area has definitely improved from recent (bad) memory as well as over the last few seasons, becoming a sort of entity of its own — assisting in their own special way in wins for the team.
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