The Giant Insider Online

Key Changes Coming to Giants’ Special Teams in 2018

The New York Giants’ special teams, like every other unit in camp this year, will have a new look. Gone is longtime coordinator Tom Quinn, who over his decade plus service with the team was an average coach at best.

Granted, the front office did not put a ton of stress on specials, so Quinn was usually dealing with the odds and ends of the roster and his specialists were always retreads from some other team’s roster. Outside of a handful of instances, the Giants’ special teams have been disappointing to put it nicely.

Bill Parcells always considered special teams to be one-third of the game, which it is (in some cases, more) and dedicated some of his best players to it. General manager Dave Gettleman approaches special teams the same way. He did not re-sign Quinn and brought in Thomas McGaughey, his special teams coordinator in Carolina, to run the Giants’ unit.

McGaughey was actually Quinn’s assistant with the Giants from 2007-10 as has coached specials in both college and the pros since 1998. Under McGaughey, the Panthers finished 10th in Rick Gosselin’s 2017 NFL special teams rankings. The Giants? They were dead last.

Changes are coming in all facets of special teams this summer. Here’s what to expect:

Kicking

Aldrick Rosas is back. Take that for what it’s worth. He’ll be challenged by Marshall Koehn.

Rosas made only 18 of his 25 field goal attempts in 2017 (72 percent) and missed three point-after attempts, but was 3-for-3 on field goals over 50 yards. Meanwhile, Koehn has played in just one NFL regular season game (last year with the Cincinnati Bengals), but has put up a decent showing so far in workouts.

Neither player is a top of the line kicker. The Giants might be actively looking for a veteran replacement should one come on the market.

Starting line of scrimmage

The Giants’ average drive started on their own 26.7-yard line, which was sixth-worst in the NFL last year. They scored on only 22.7 percent of their drives (31st). Given the struggles they had moving the football on offense, the specials did not do them any favors. It’s no wonder the Giants only averaged 15.4 points per game in 2017, their lowest output since 2003.

Theoretically, the new kickoff rules should radically change where drives start, but until we see them in action, it’s hard to predict how kickoffs are going to shake out.

Kickoff returns

Again, the new rules are designed to slow kickoff tacklers and blockers down, but unfortunately, the Giants don’t have an electric returner to take advantage here. They averaged 19.6 yards per return (28th overall) on 31 kickoffs in 2017. Their longest was just 30 yards.

The primary kick returners last season were Kalif Raymond (11 for 186 yards), Dwayne Harris (9 for 188) and Shane Vereen (9 for 196). Of the three, only Raymond is still with the team and he will be getting consideration for the job, providing they keep him.

Kick coverage

In 32 attempts last year, the Giants allowed an average of 20.5 yards per return, which was good enough for 14th in the NFL. The longest return they gave up was 47 yards and did not allow a touchdown.

Gettleman has done an excellent job of signing special teams demons this past offseason such as Michael Thomas and Cody Latimer, two of the NFL’s top gunners and tacklers the past few seasons. Like we said, no one knows what a kickoff is going to look like until they line up in the preseason, so it’s not prudent to make any real projections here.

Punt returns

Another area in which the Giants could use vast improvement. Only the Jets (4.5 YPA) were worse than the Giants last season. In 31 attempts, Big Blue averaged just 5.5 yards per attempt. One reason for the low output was they sis not have a dedicated punt returner.

Raymond fielded the most punts (13) but managed only 61 yards. The longest return was by Ed Eagan, who had a 20-yarder. Raymond is once again in the mix for the job along with Shepard, but again, McGaughey will still be searching for his main guy this summer at camp.

Punting/Punt coverage

Brad Wing was let go after a very disappointing year which saw the Giants punt 95 times, the most in the NFL. Their net average of 36.7 yards was the lowest in the league, as were the number of punts inside the 20 (19). They were tied for the most punts blocked (2) and touchbacks (9) and had a moderate 20 fair catches. Only seven punts landed out of bounds and another 16 were downed. Almost half of the punts Wing got off (43) were returnable. Teams averaged 10.4 per return which includes an 88-yard touchdown scamper by Detroit’s Jamal Agnew in Week 2.

Its hard to see this being worse in 2018. The Giants traded for Denver’s Riley Dixon earlier this year and then signed Taylor Symmank to challenge him. Dixon was a curious choice by Gettleman considering his numbers weren’t a whole lot better than Wing’s.

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