As Offense and Defense Struggle, Giants’ Special Teams Continue to Stand Out

The Giants seemed to have solved their special teams woes over time. Special teams coach Tom Quinn has taken the wide array of talent afforded him and made the units respectable – even formidable – again. With the offense drying up and the defense falling apart, the specials have become the club’s most consistent part of the team this season.

The Meltdown at the Meadowlands against the Eagles in 2010 is a distant memory these days. They are covering kickoffs and punts better, making fewer mistakes not allowing a punt to be returned to the house since that fateful game. The Giants have not allowed a KO to be returned for a TD since 2007.

These days have an explosive returner of their own in rookie David Wilson, who has had numerous long KO returns including a 97-yarder several weeks ago vs the Saints.

They currently lead the NFL in kick returns (62) and kick return yardage (1,619), but have returned the fewest punts (20).

Punter Steve Weatherford is not knocking them dead like he did last year, but he is still a fine placement punter. His net average  is only 39.1 this season and only has 20 punts inside the 20.

K Lawrence Tynes was once leading the league in scoring and was on course to break the Giants’ franchise single-season record. He needs 10 points Sunday to break Jay Feely’s mark of 148 set in 2005. Tynes is second in the NFL in scoring (139 points) and first in FGs made with 33.

Quinn spoke to reporters yesterday regarding the status of the special teams at the end of this long, trying season.

Coach Coughlin was pretty happy with the way the special teams unit played last week and singled you guys out as the only group that played well:
Kickoff return, we left some yardage out there, which we needed against a really good coverage team. That was a little disappointing. We missed a couple reads and didn’t finish off some blocks. I thought punt competed; punt return, I’m not happy with that. (Domenik) Hixon had a couple opportunities…he had one 10-yard return, the other one was only two. That affected us.

You guys changed the kick return and had Ryan Torrain back there with David Wilson?
If he’s active, we want to be able to use the best guys for the job. We also had Jernigan for return, so he could take those reps if David needed a blow.

With what Lawrence Tynes has done this year, how would you assess his performance?
It was consistent earlier in the year and then we kind of ran into a patch in the law few games. You have to make those kicks. Those are all makeable kicks, so I’m sure he’d want those back. Hopefully he gets hot here in the last game and finishes it off. We’ll see what happens. Obviously you always want to take away that little rough spot to really feel good about it. He was very consistent and the snapper and holder helped him by being consistent. He’s made progress.

What about Tynes’ job on kickoffs this season?
They were good. It wasn’t flying as much, but I think we haven’t seen as many touchbacks on kick returns either. So, it kind of goes hand in hand. It’s not like the other guy is kicking a bunch of touchbacks. I think it’s just how the wind was blowing for our games and the weather we were playing in, that type of thing.

Coach Coughlin mentioned that these guys on special teams are usually the guys hanging on and fighting for spots on the team. Have you always noticed that these guys are trying to make their name?
I think it’s got to be. Anytime you’re on the bottom of the roster, you’ll be fighting for a job, fighting for a paycheck. You better be motivated. We always have to deal with that as far as who we get to deal with. You hope they’re motivated and if not, you’ll find someone else that is.

The new guys are always handed to you first:
Yeah, (Kregg) Lumpkin and (Ryan) Torrain have done a nice job just jumping in and being a part of it. It’s always good.