For the first time in several years, the Giants are facing multiple changes on special teams. The constants they will carry into this season are the punter (Steve Weatherford) and the long snapper (Zak DeOssie). Weatherford also serves as the team's holder on PATs and FGs.
The openings lie at the kick and punt returner positions and at placekicker, where either Josh Brown or David Buehler will attempt to replace Lawrence Tynes.
Special teams coach Tom Quinn broke down where those competitions stand right now today at the final day of Giants' minicamp.
On the overall status of the return groups: " It’s an open competition. There’s two or three guys that we really like and which one will rise up and take the job is something… We’ve still got to see once we get into the preseason and get live reps at it. So we’ll see. "
"We get a lot of practice reps. So whether it’s against our own punt team or if it’s with our punt return team or kickoff return, we’ll get the reps throughout training camp in practice and then from there we’ll see who deserves it in the preseason games."Kickoffs
David Wilson led the NFL in kickoff return attempts and yardage as a rookie last season. With the departure of Ahmad Bradshaw, he is expected to be the team's featured RB, which could lead to a reduced role on special teams.
On if David Wilson is still going to be considered at kickoff return even though he could be the team's No.1 RB this year: "I think you’d have to. We’ll see how that all plays out. Obviously, he would like to do it. He’s done it very well, but we’ll have to see how it all comes down with where he is on the depth chart and what he’s doing on offense. It might be maybe for one or two or you don’t need him for one or two, but we’ve got other guys that we feel good about. They feel good about the scheme and the system that’s in place."
On if it's too much on Wilson to handle kickoffs and RB duties: "I don’t think it’s too much to do both, but I’m not making all the decisions. I think it all depends on the game. There’s other guys that have done both, whether it was as a punt returner and a starter or a kickoff returner and a starter. It’s just how it all plays out. You have someone who is just as good and the blocking is just as good and they can hit the whole, then that would be the guy."
On who else could see reps on the kickoff return unit: "Rueben Randle is another guy that we’re excited about and then Jerrel Jernigan is another guy. So there’s a bunch of guys that can do the job if it’s not David."
Domenik Hixon and Rueben Randle were the only two players to return punts for the Giants last season. Hixon is gone, so Randle is the incumbent. At minicamp, he, Jernigan and defensive backs Jayron Hosley and Charles James fielded punts. So did Wilson.
Another player, CB Aaron Ross, is a natural at the position. In his first tour with the Giants, Ross couldn't stay healthy enough to be considered for the role. This time around he's healthy and playing on a one-year deal. The Giants will be less apprehensive to expose him on special teams. Quinn admitted Ross would get a shot at the job this summer:
"He’s someone that’s probably one of the cleanest at catching the ball so there is a lot of faith with him back there, but that’s something we need to create more field position for our offense with our punt return unit and it’s something that we’ve lagged the last couple of years. When Domenik was doing it earlier in ’08 and ’09 we were more productive, but we’ve got to get more production out of that punt return unit. That was a big focus for us all the way across the board with the scheme and the technique and also the returner."
Lawrence Tynes (who is still currently without a team) hit some big kicks for the Giants over the past six seasons. He also set a team record for consecutive PATs with out a miss. But to be truthful, Tynes' accuracy was waning in the second half of the season last year and his kickoffs were falling short.
The Giants are looking for a kicker who can bury kickoffs for a touchback and kick the long FG, something Tynes was not adept at doing.
On how the competition between David Buehler and Josh Brown is shaping up: "They’re competing right now. They’ve both shown some good things. We’re looking for consistency out of that position. Lawrence was consistent and did a nice job, so we’re looking for that and how well they kick off after that is a big factor."
When you have a change in kicker, does that change how you might do kickoffs or is it pretty much the same regardless of who is the kicker? "Not necessarily. I mean they’re both similar with the kickoffs. The biggest thing is the operation between the snap, the hold and kick. You really want to work on it in the spring and we’re getting better with that".