Special teams coach Tom Quinn met the media yesterday at Quest to discuss the state of his units. Last year, his groups fared well. Kickoff returns were stellar with rookie David Wilson leading the league in return yardage. The overall coverage on kickoffs and punts was good and K Lawrence Tynes was second in the league in scoring.
The only area that needed improvement was the punt returner position. Quinn said yesterday the position is still open:
"It’s wide open," declared Quinn. "We’ve got Rueben. We’ve got Jayron Hosley. We’ve got Jernigan. David is taking some reps back there and then we also have some young guys that we’re interested about like Hardy. Kevin Hardy is one receiver. Laron Scott… So those are the guys that are in the mix right now. Just getting them enough reps to see what they can do, especially in the game, because obviously we didn’t make a very good decision last game."
Hosley was drafted with punt returner on his resume. He's not going to see as many reps as a third round DB would normally receive because he can't line up with the longer, taller wideouts on the outside. He's strictly a slot corner or a nickel back. Quinn acknowledged Hosley would get a long look at PR....
"He had the first three this time. So he only had one opportunity (a four yard gain). But we’ve got to try and get those guys who we think have a shot and enough reps to see what we’ve got back there."
But now, Quinn is also faced with losing Wilson on kickoffs and dealing with a new kicker, Josh Brown, since Tynes and the Giants could not come to terms on a contract this spring. Tynes recently signed with Tampa Bay.
Last week, four of the five kickoffs the Giants lined up to return went for touchbacks. Quinn was asked how kickoff returns would change without the explosiveness of Wilson...
"We expect it to be the same way with whoever we put back there. David did an excellent job, but I think there was good blocking too."
That doesn't seem possible given the fact that Wilson may be one of fastest people on the planet. The two probables on kickoff returns this year are WR Jerrel Jernigan (who returned a KO 27 yards vs the Steelers last week) and rookie RB Michael Cox.
"He’s looked good in practice.," said Quinn of Cox. "We’ve just got to see him in the game when it is full speed live tackling. He does have the ability to make people miss and he is explosive. So we’re excited to see him and hopefully we get some balls that we can return."
[sny-accordion title= "More from Tom Quinn" ]Q: What have you seen from Josh Brown?
A: With Josh Brown, you see a consistent veteran kicker and he would have liked to have two of those kicks back… So it’s something to work on this week.
Q: The one where he missed the field goal?
A: The one before that wasn’t struck as well as he had liked to and the one after that was obviously missed. Those are the two that he would like to have back. Under that distance, you have to make them all.
Q: When he was signed this year, were you concerned at all that he only played four games last year?
A: Not necessarily. It was a different year as far as kickers. I don’t think anyone changed kickers until week 13 or 14. It was deep into it because guys made kicks and then the young guys made kicks. I think there were three new rookies on rosters and so there wasn’t a lot of turnover. Usually, there’s more turnover. Usually a guy like Josh, who didn’t make a team, would have been picked up earlier, so I think that was a surprise to everyone. We didn’t really focus on that part of it.
Q: What did you think of some of the rule changes this offseason? Did it affect any of the stuff that you’re trying?
A: Not really. I think the field goal rule is a good rule. It’s not doubling up. A lot of times there are four guys on one or four guys on two guys. You see a lot of injuries right there. It’s all safety driven and we’re good with all of it.
Q: How excited were you to get a punt block on the first series?
A: I wasn’t very happy because the first punt return we didn’t block it very well and we got nothing and then we got a re-do and re-do’s are always nice. …and we took advantage of it.
Q: When you have a new kicker or any part of that three-part process, there is an acclimation process.
A: There is. Yeah.
Q: How has that been going?
A: It’s gone really well. I think Zak and Steve have done a good job. I think they’re better than they were last year, so that made the transition a little bit easier. With the kicker, you’ve got to have enough time to see the ball and the ball is on the right spot, right lane, right tilt, so we’ve been pleased with that.
Q: Why are they better than they were last year?
A: They keep working. It’s a never-ending process, so they’re always striving to be the best they can be and they just keep working at it and got better.
Q: Is Josh like other kickers you have worked with?
A: They’ve been easy. The guys I’ve had have been pretty easy. Easy to please. It’s tough because, regardless of the snap or the hold, it’s all about the kick and so they know the pressure is on them to make the kick. People don’t see the hold. They don’t want to hear about the hold. So we’ve got to do a good job of having a good snap, good hold, so we can have a good kick.
Q: There is a lot going on in a short period of time involving three people.
A: It is, but we get a lot of reps at it and we have a lot of practice. It’s a very important job for Steve and Zak. They’ve got to continue to improve.
Q: Has Steve Weatherford worked with Josh prior to coming here?
A: When they train in the offseason in San Diego, Josh had trained with him. So they’ve had some prior experience together.
Q: How much does Steve help in general? Do you feel like guys follow him and push themselves a little bit more?
A: Yeah. He does fancy himself as a bodybuilder, but it doesn’t get any punting points. His job is still to punt the ball with great location and hang and distance. But I think ever since I’ve coached special teams, regardless of the level I’ve been at, you always try to really reinforce those guys that you’re a member of this team and the way they can see it is in the weight room. We want to be below the radar and we work just as hard as everyone else. We’re not going to sweat. We’re not going to get hit. We’re not going to do the things that the other guys are doing, so at least they see that you’re putting time in… Zak is a tremendous worker too and Josh has been really following those two guys, so it’s pleasing to see how they work.
Q: Of the new guys you’ve had join the team, has anybody stood out special teams wise?
A: Damontre Moore. He does a good job of listening and he tries to do exactly what you tell him to do. He’s athletic and then there are unusual traits that he has just with his size. He creates matchup problems, so I’ve been pleased with him. More mental in the meeting room than anything else. Cox has been good. This has been a pretty good young group as far as their attention to detail.[/sny-accordion]