In preseason, the New York Giants special teams was the lone shiny, gold star. Now, not so much. So many are blaming punter Steve Weatherford, as the punting unit has many more horror stories (than the kicking unit) as we get closer to Halloween. This isn’t the same story of Matt Dodge, however.
First, some stats: kicker Josh Brown had 18 of his 27 kickoffs go for touchbacks. The remaining 9 were returned for an average of 24.3 yards and no returns for touchdowns (14th in the league). Brown’s average kickoff goes for 66.5 yards (10th in the league). He’s 7/9 on field goals and perfect on extra points. Apparently, the problem is when the Giants punt. Here’s where things get ugly. Sort of.
More stats: punter Steve Weatherford is (believe it or not) having his best year, folks. He’s 5th in the league with an average of 47.7 yards (career best). Of 41 punts (6th worst in the league), six were touchbacks (tied for 2nd most) and eight were inside the 20. Now, here’s where things (like these stats) get horribly dreadful: the Giants are tied for 3rd worst in number of punts returned (20 of 41) and the Washington Redskins (21.6) are the only team worse than Big Blue (20.4) on average return yards on punts. Blue also has three punts returned for touchdowns this season (against Denver, Kansas City and Minnesota) which is one shy of tying the NFL record for most in a season.
Now, these aren’t 100% on Weatherford. When and if one were to watch game tape, you see the problem lies in the punt coverage unit and almost no edge containment. Couple that with the facts that most guys can’t shed their blocks, players are in certain specials positions where they haven’t had many reps, and stupid penalties are giving away yardage if a fumble hasn’t given away total possession, and well…
One man who knows that this is embarrassing enough (but if anyone were to put this unit’s game film to some Benny Hill music…) to become irate over, it’s special teams coordinator Tom Quinn. His last media session wasn’t unlike what many of us have been screaming.
“We didn’t get good releases as the gunners and we didn’t get great releases up front. We have to sprint faster to the ball and squeeze to the ball. We have to make the play on that guy [Vikings’ cornerback, Marcus Sherels],” Quinn said.
As discussed last week, a portion of the issue is a constant rotation of new players on the team, on all three units. Quinn feels it’s no different for his unit, but it shouldn’t be an excuse.
“It’s always something different, so you’re shuffling guys in and out and trying to find solutions that way. There are not that many guys to do that with. They’ve all been different circumstances and it just hasn’t been good enough for anyone. We’re all embarrassed by it,” admitted Tom Quinn. "We had to shuffle other guys around. We’re trying to build continuity, but it’s hard when everybody has to get shuffled around, so we’re trying to get that rectified. Sometimes you’re kind of forced to use guys outside of their roles, but that’s the way it is…not your first choice to do it, but sometimes that’s your best, so you have to go with that. It’s not what our expectations are. It’s not what the organization, the team, mine, [assistant coach] Larry’s (Izzo), anyone. It pisses you off and I hope it pisses everyone off in this building. To take away a shutout from the defense, that hurts. How many times do we get opportunities to do that? So, it’s frustrating.”
Frustration here hopefully will be used as a fuel of sorts. Change needs to happen — stat too, as this unit is starting to be a costly factor for the Giants.
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