Monday, November 11, 2013
Weatherford: Toughest year of my career
By Matt Ehalt
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Some weeks, it's been punt returns for touchdowns. Other weeks, it's been a low net average. It just hasn't been an easy season for New York Giants punter Steve Weatherford.
"It's been the toughest of my career," Weatherford said Monday.
Weatherford's up-and-down season continued Sunday, as he averaged a meager 30.5 net yards on his four punts in the Giants' 24-20 win over the Oakland Raiders at MetLife Stadium. That net average was his second-lowest of the season, and his season average of 35 is his career-low.
"It was tough," Weatherford said. "Obviously tough conditions. Would have liked to perform better but our defense played great and was able to pick us up."
Weatherford is averaging 45.9 total yards per punt this season, which is better than his career average, but he's allowed three returns for touchdowns and is generally failing to get the ball inside the 20-yard line. Just 22 percent of his kicks have been downed inside the 20, his lowest percentage since 2008. Opposing teams have already racked up 423 return yards, the most in Weatherford's career.
"It's been humbling," said Weatherford, who only allowed one return for a touchdown in his previous seven seasons. "It's been frustrating because at times I feel like I'm hitting the ball really well. Hitting the ball on the sideline or out of bounds, and sometimes when I hit the ball where I want to hit it the coverage is there but we just can't get our hands on him, and then there's times I don't punt the ball well and I'm hoping maybe the coverage can save us.
"You can't really point the finger at any one person. I think collectively as a punt team we have to execute better."
Weatherford struggled with the wind against the Raiders. He said it was the windiest conditions he'd played in at MetLife Stadium, and the wind was constantly changing, which made it difficult to adjust. Both Weatherford and head coach Tom Coughlin said the wind was similar to those at the old Giants Stadium.
Weatherford's punts gradually decreased in net yardage as the game went on. His first one went for 51 yards, before he followed that up with a 36-yarder and a 27-yarder. His final one, in the fourth quarter, was deflected and only went 7 yards. Since the ball went beyond the line of scrimmage, it was not credited as a block -- that would have been the first time Weatherford had a punt blocked in his career.
Coughlin said the Giants aren't necessarily looking to bring in any free-agent punters, but said the unit has to do better.
"I guess when it rains it pours because the three punts I had previous to that obviously weren't my best efforts considering it was into the wind and everything," Weatherford said. "When I do get the wind at my back, I get a seven-yarder. Frustrating but that's kind of been how it's been for me this year. Lots of ups, lots of downs."