The Giant Insider Online

Should the Giants have let OBJ return that last punt vs Jags?

There was buzz this summer, created by New York Giants head coach Pat Shurmur himself, that it was not out of the question that he would consider his two superstar offensive players – WR Odell Beckham, Jr. and RB Saquon Barkley – in the return game.

When the season began last Sunday, the Giants had settled that argument by naming recently-signed WR Kaelin Clay as their primary punt returner and then pairing him with their No. 3 wideout, Cody Latimer, on kickoffs.

But with the Giants down, 20-15, late in the game against the Jaguars in the season opener Sunday, it looked to many as if Shurmur just might consider inserting Beckham in at punt returner.

It appeared to be the perfect situation. With 54 seconds remaining in the game, the Jaguars were facing a fourth-and-six on their own 40 and were punting the ball back to the Giants.

Punter Logan Cooke booted the ball 41 yards to the Giants’ 19 where Clay misjudged the depth of the punt and muffed it, forward. The ball was recovered by the Jaguars on the 21 to seal the game.

“No,” said Shurmur when asked if he had considered inserting OBJ in for Clay.  Why not? Clay has been with the team for just a week, a post-53-man-cut addition that has a history of big plays, not just for himself but for his opponents.

On Monday, reporters were still looking for clarity on why Shurmur had not even toyed with putting his best player in position to help the team.

“Especially in that situation, I mentioned I didn’t because we were going for the block,” he said. “Typically in that situation, the returner knows there’s a decent chance you might fair catch it. He (Clay) did have a little more space than you normally have, he just misfielded it.”

It really doesn’t matter, unless you believe that OBJ could have provided some magic in that spot. Clay had done nothing with the six balls punted his way at that point. Two were kicked out of bounds and another was downed. He got his hands on the other three, gaining a grand total of four yards.

Had Clay fielded the punt cleanly, it would have given the Giants the ball on their own 20 needing to go 80 yards in 49 seconds since they needed a touchdown to win the game. That’s a highly unlikely scenario since the Giants hadn’t driven the ball effectively on the Jags in the first 59 minutes.

Shurmur will surely think twice about using his stars in big situations going forward.

“Possibly,” he said when asked if he’d consider it. “We’ll see”.

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