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Friday, June 14, 2013
Will Wilson's kick returner role be reduced?

By Kieran Darcy

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Giants had the NFL's leading kick returner in 2012. But he may not be their primary kick returner in 2013.

David Wilson still wants to return kicks. In fact, he said earlier this week that it's his favorite part of playing football. But Wilson is the leading candidate to be the Giants' No. 1 running back in 2013 -- meaning head coach Tom Coughlin may elect to reduce his role on special teams, to protect him from injury and conserve his energy.

David Wilson
David Wilson was the NFL's leading kick returner last season.
Special teams coordinator Tom Quinn knows he may be losing his biggest weapon, at least some of the time.

"He's done it very well, but we'll have to see how it all comes down with where he is on the depth chart and what he's doing on offense," Quinn said Thursday, following the Giants' final official workout of the spring.

Wilson amassed 1,533 kickoff return yards last season as a rookie -- almost 300 more than the Titans' Darius Reynaud, who was second in the league. He also had a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in Week 14 against the Saints.

"I don't think it's too much to do both, but I'm not making all the decisions," Quinn added. "I think it all depends on the game. There’s other guys that have done both, whether it was as a punt returner and a starter or a kickoff returner and a starter. It’s just how it all plays out."

Quinn mentioned wide receivers Rueben Randle and Jerrel Jernigan as two other candidates for kick-return duties. Randle was the Giants' primary punt returner in 2012, handling 15 of their 20 returns. But the Giants had just 144 punt-return yards on the season, placing them dead-last in the NFL.

Cornerback Aaron Ross rejoined the Giants this offseason, and Quinn said Ross -- who handled some punts for the Giants in 2010 and '11 -- is a viable candidate at punt returner as well.

"We need to create more field position for our offense with our punt return unit and it's something that we've lagged [behind in] the last couple of years," Quinn said. "When Domenik [Hixon] was doing it earlier in '08 and '09 we were more productive, but we've got to get more production out of that punt return unit. That was a big focus for us all the way across the board [this spring] with the scheme and the technique and also the returner."

Steve Weatherford is firmly entrenched as the Giants' punter in 2013 -- he finished 19th in the NFL last season, with a net average of 39.4 yards.

But there will be a change at place kicker. Lawrence Tynes was let go, and the Giants have brought in two potential replacements -- Josh Brown and David Buehler.

"They're competing right now. They've both shown some good things," Quinn said. "We're looking for consistency out of that position. Lawrence was consistent and did a nice job, so we're looking for that and how well they kick off after that is a big factor."