As the season approaches, we will take an in depth look at the defending champions.
Projected starters: K Lawrence Tynes, P Steve Weatherford and LS Zak DeOssie.
Player to watch: Steve Weatherford. Two years ago the Giants had one of the best punters in the business with Jeff Feagles. He was accurate, consistent and had a huge leg. When he retired the Giants went out and drafted Matt Dodge. All of you Giant fans know the story of this guy. After having a very tough rookie season, the Giants opted to have a competition last season at the punter position.
Steve Weatherford won the job and turned a position of weakness back into a strength for the Giants with his outstanding performance last season. Weatherford averaged 45.7 yards per punt with 25 punts landing inside the 20 yard line. He also landed five punts inside the 20 yards line in the playoffs against San Francisco and New England.
The Giants recently resigned the punter to a deal worth $12.75 million over five years. It’s a lot of money for a punter, but well worth it for a guy so accurate, and for a position that can change the outcome of any game.
Strength: Looking for help outside of the kickers. One reason why the Giants were in it last season as opposed to the season before was because of Weatherford’s punting. The battle of field position was won more times by the Giants than other teams they faced. Weatherford wasn’t the only one who upgraded a poor punting unit. The coverage team was upgraded with youth by adding Tyler sash, Mark Herzlich, Greg Jones and Jacquian Williams. A coverage team so good, they did not allow a single punt or kickoff return for a touchdown last season.
Considering those coverage rookies are now second year players with more experience, this unit could be better this year. The Giants also utilized their front line’s long arms by trying to block field goals and punts. It paid off with Jason Pierre-Paul blocking a potential overtime forcing field goal against Dallas in December.
Weakness: The return game. The Return game for the Giants has been nothing short of abysmal over the past few seasons. Domenik Hixon burst out of the scene and provided a reliable return man for the Giants in 2009, but was lost to back to back ACL injuries the last two seasons.
The Giants drafted Rueben Randle and Jayron Hosley knowing they have punt return experience. David Wilson has experience returning kickoffs as well. Jerrell Jernigan, Hixon and Hosley should compete throughout the season at the punt return position. Da’Rel Scott is the speedster on the team and he should work alongside Wilson returning kickoffs. The Giants don’t have terrible return men. They just need to find a consistent strategy that works best for themselves.
Hit or miss: Domenik Hixon. He is attempting to come back from his second ACL injury in the past two years. The Giants are going to take it slow with him and will be cautious about how much time he gets on the field. If the Giants don’t think Hosley or Jernigan can handle the punting duties, Hixon will be implanted as the return specialist. Hixon was a star on this team back in 2009 and racked up 1,291 kickoff return yards. A number the Giants haven’t seen or come close to since then. If he can get back to his old form and continue to return at a high level then the Giants will be fine. But if the Giants don’t want to risk losing him to injury, they may need to look for help elsewhere.
About the Author
Written by Matthew Stapleton
Ridgewood, New Jersey