Thursday, April 26, 2012

New York Giants Draft Preview: Special Teams

This is the 6th installment in the series of posts breaking down the Giants position by position for the upcoming NFL Draft.  The next position up is special teams. 

The Giants depth chart currently includes Kicker Lawrence Tynes, Punter Steve Weatherford, Long Snapper Zak DeOssie, Punt Returner Domenik Hixon, and Kick Returners Jerrel Jernigan, Da’Rel Scott and D.J. Ware.  Will Blackmon is the only current special teamer still on the free agent wire for the Giants.

Last season the special teams saw a vast improvement throughout all aspects in 2011 compared to 2010.  One area that saw a glaring improvement was in the punting game.  After beating out Matt Dodge in training camp, Weatherford provided clutch and outstanding punting.  Tynes was efficient, going 19-24 on his Field Goal attempts and kicking 34 touchbacks.

The coverage teams were also vastly improved.  Neither the punt return or kick off coverage allowed a return touchdown on the season.  A reason for this was the infusion of young talent through the draft in Greg Jones, Jacquian Williams and Tyler Sash and the signing of undrafted free agent Mark Herzlich. 

At times superstars Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck were seen on the special team units attempting to block field goals and punts.  Giants’ fans will remember JPP blocked field goal against the Dallas Cowboys in week 15 that very well could have saved the Giants season.  Let’s not also forget to mention Corner Back Justin Tryon, who contributed in his short amount of time before suffering a season ending injury.  I distinctly remember the play he made on a punt against the Miami Dolphins and Reggie Bush.  It was the play Tryon sadly got hurt on, but he was still able to make the play and stop the explosive Bush. 

The return game was the only thing that was not so stellar for the Giants. They averaged only 6.1 yards per punt return and 23.3 yards per kick return.  Hixon is a capable return man and his return is nothing but positive for the team.  But he is a huge injury concern, and the other main kick and punt return men all either left the team in free agency or remain unsigned.  Hixon, Jernigan and Scott are all capable of being good return men because of the tools they posses.  Ware also has experience as a kick returner.

The last time the Giants selected a special teamer in the draft was 2010 with Matt Dodge and we all know how that ended up.  Don’t expect the Giants to take any special teamers outside of possibly an electric return man.  The Giants are more than set at Kicker, Punter and Long Snapper.  Some possibilities are Arkansas’ Joe Adams who led the FBS in yard per punt return at an average of 16.9 or Keshawn Martin from Michigan State who was mentioned earlier in the WR post.  Another return man to keep an eye on is Florida’s Chris Rainey, who is dangerous in space and is capable of being a good return man in the NFL. I would put the need for a special teamer at a 4 for the Giants, only because it would be beneficial to add a spark plug in the return game.  Other than a returner, the need for special teamers would be a 1 on a scale on 1-10.  

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