Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Cooper Taylor's not-so-special teams play
By Dan Graziano ESPN.com
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The key thing to know is that the punt-protector role is a new one for second-year New York Giants safety Cooper Taylor. Though, if you watched Sunday night's preseason game, you may have guessed that already.
"Yeah, it's fundamental," Giants special teams coordinator Tom Quinn said Wednesday. "You have to put your hat on the guy. You have to redirect him. He did not do that."
The Giants used Taylor as a "gunner" on special teams last year, sending him downfield on the outside to try to stop return men. But they're trying him this year in that inside role, lined up as a sort of tight end on the punt team to help protect the kick from being blocked.
"With his height/weight/speed combination, that should be a very natural position for him," Quinn said. "We're still working with him and trying to get him better. But that's something he has to work on."
Taylor was the Giants' fifth-round pick in the 2013 draft, and he's got a good chance to make this year's team as a backup safety. But he'd be no better than the No. 4 safety on the depth chart at this point, and anyone who fits that description also has to be able to contribute on special teams. This is something Taylor knows and takes quite seriously. However disgusted you may have been as a fan with his whiff Sunday night, he had you beat.
"It was one of the hardest days of my life," said Taylor, who redeemed himself a bit with an interception six plays later and played an overall strong game on defense. "My teammates all told me to keep my head up, and I was able to come back and get that interception. But it was definitely a trying game, definitely a learning experience for me."
Taylor's breakdown prompted coach Tom Coughlin to make punt protection a point of emphasis in Tuesday night's practice, and the head coach oversaw those drills directly. Coughlin also stayed after practice to watch Taylor work one-on-one with defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka on technique. That session continued after Coughlin left, with Kiwanuka spending a great deal of time both lining up against Taylor and speaking to him about proper form.
"All of our guys are real good with helping the young guys," Coughlin said. "They do an excellent job of that."
So Taylor has that going for him as he works to overcome the mistake that stood out above all of his positive play Sunday night. He also has time -- still four and a half weeks until the final roster cuts and nearly five weeks until the first game that counts.