Thursday, February 10, 2011
Final report card: Special teams
By Ohm Youngmisuk
We’re taking a look back and delivering our final grades for the 2010 season. We will be grading position by position and final season awards and accolades such as MVPs and Most Improved in the Giants blog over the next few weeks.
The ‘D’ might as well stand for disaster since the special teams was a season-long nightmare for Tom Coughlin.
The Giants never recovered from two major offseason losses after punter Jeff Feagles retired last spring and returner Domenik Hixon suffered a torn ACL during the team’s first workout at the New Meadowlands Stadium during the summer.
Rookie punter Matt Dodge flashed glimpses of his powerful leg. But his mistakes overshadowed the positives, punctuated by his punt to DeSean Jackson in the Giants’ epic collapse to the Eagles.
Dodge averaged 44.8 yards per punt but had a net average of only 34.3. He had one punt blocked and two returned for touchdowns. It did not help that the coverage struggled at times as well. Dodge also outkicked his coverage on occasions but to his credit, the rookie never shied away from talking about his mistakes.
Dodge wasn’t completely to blame for the special teams’ struggles. During the devastating loss to the Eagles, Coughlin opted not to send his hands team out prior to the Eagles executing a successful onside kick during their comeback.
The punt return game was a mess as Darius Reynaud averaged 5.7 yards a punt return. On kickoffs, the Giants averaged 19 yards a return but got decent production late in the season from D.J. Ware.
Kicker Lawrence Tynes was the bright spot as he converted 19-of-23 field goal attempts and kept the unit's grade from being lower. And, three of his missed field goals came in the first four weeks with Dodge as his holder. He hit 16 straight with Sage Rosenfels holding for him before missing his final field goal attempt of the season in Washington.
Rookie Jason Pierre-Paul also emerged as a standout on special teams’ coverage as well.
2011 FORECAST: GM Jerry Reese needs to upgrade the special teams and he can start by adding more speed for the return game and coverage units.
If Hixon makes a full recovery from ACL surgery last summer, the Giants very well could re-sign one of the more popular players in the locker room. But drafting a speedster who can return would help a great deal.
Dodge will have competition in camp. But the Giants stuck with the rookie because they love his potential and the punter is eager to prove that he can overcome his shaky rookie season.
Chase Blackburn’s contract is up and the special teams captain and one of Coughlin's favorite players deserves to return.