The Giants' struggle on special teams this season has been well-noted, having given up four TDs on punt coverage. In the opening game against Dallas, the Giants held Cowboys' fleet PR Dwayne Harris to just 19 yards on two returns.
Giants' special teams coordinator Tom Quinn is aware that Harris is capable of beating his team with a long return, like he did earlier this season against Washington with an 86-yarder for a TD.
"It is the NFL, so you better be ready to play every week and this week we better be on our toes for sure. They’re a very good special teams. Dwayne Harris continues to get better since he’s come into the league and he’s really hit his stride with both punt returns and kickoff returns, but they’re blocking exceptionally well and he runs hard, straight and fast. He’s a vertical returner...He’s got excellent vision. He can stick his foot in the ground and change direction on you and then the blocking. They’ve done a really nice job with the units with both punt return and kickoff returns."
It will be windy and cold here this Sunday and punter Steve Weatherford, who has had his issues this season, will have to be extra attentive.
"I hope he learned his lesson. I think he has. He’ll be ready. He’s just got to deal with it," said Quinn. "He’s just got to catch and kick it. The wind is going to be the wind and the truer ball you hit, the better ball. So kickoffs, if you have rotation, it won’t move as much, but if you have poor rotation, then it will move it quite a bit; same thing on punts. If it’s a tight spiral, it won’t move it as much, but if it’s loose, then it will take it and blow it all over the stadium."
Weatherford understands what he needs to do....
"Usually the night before the coach will go over what the wind is going to be, who the referees are and just kind of give you a feel for what to expect the next day. There’s no use in losing any sleep over it earlier in the week," the punter told reporters yesterday. "When it’s super windy like that you just want to hit a good punt and you want to hit something that they can cover. You don’t try to, when it’s really windy like that, to get too cute and try to hit balls out of bounds. I think that’s maybe something the last time we played. I was trying to do too much instead of just trying to hit a clean ball."
Quinn said the KR spot will be handled by Michael Cox and Jerrel Jernigan, who could be out of the doghouse after fumbling the opening kickoff against the Raiders two weeks ago. Cox has been steady, but not spectacular last week. Quinn was not pleased with the overall blocking on kickoffs, either:
"We didn’t block it very well. I’m upset with the blocking because I thought we had a couple of chances, but it was very, very poor and so we’ve addressed it and we’ve got to get that fixed."
On if Rueben Randle, who had a 32-yard punt return last week, has taken a step forward:
"I hope so. It’s been a long time since we’ve finally did that, but he’s got good courage back there. He’s aggressive. If we get the blocking a little bit better, then we can get a few more of those, but we’re happy with what he’s doing."
Quinn's units are benefitting from the Giants getting healthy, getting some players back. Better players equate to better play. Ryan Mundy and Spencer Paysinger, both former starters, are now primarily contributors on teams.
"They’ve kind of come back to special teams. They started their career as special teams players, as core guys, and they understand that role," Quinn explained. "It’s a little bit hard emotionally when you are a starter and then your start transforming into another role and then you come back. So that probably took them a little bit of time, if you’d ask them. It takes a little bit of time emotionally to get back, but I really feel good about where they’re at and what they’re doing."