New York Giants: Matt Dodge
Weatherford was a soccer player who took up punting at age 15, and he said Guy was the name everyone knew when it came to punting. So it's not just that a punter is going into the Hall of Fame; it's that it's this particular one.
"He's the guy that everybody thinks of," Weatherford said. "He was the person that made people start to care about that position and think it was more than just a body on the team. Really revolutionized the position, and you can't say enough good things about not only what he was able to do for his franchise, and all the Pro Bowls and records, but really for the position itself."
Weatherford enjoys being a punter at a time when the fans and the game place unprecedented value on the position. He said he encounters Giants fans who still commend him for the brilliant game he had against the 49ers in the NFC championship game three seasons ago and the performance he delivered in the Super Bowl against the Patriots two weeks later. He believes Giants fans have special reason to appreciate the importance of his position.
"Just Jeff Feagles," Weatherford said, invoking the name of one of his close predecessors here. "He wasn't out there hitting 65-yard punts, but he was so good at keeping the ball away from the returner and just a really, rock-solid, steady punter. And this is a really difficult place to punt -- very windy, can get nasty, can get cold. And he just did a great job for an incredibly long time.
"I think he's one of the greats, and they don't really appreciate him until we brought a rookie in here and it really went to show you how difficult a place this is to play. Not only the conditions, but this place, if you don't play well, the fans will eat you up."
The reference there is of course to poor Matt Dodge, the rookie famous for kicking the ball to DeSean Jackson at the tail end of the Eagles' miracle comeback over the Giants in December 2010. Dodge lost his job to Weatherford in training camp the following season, and after the Super Bowl victory, the Giants rewarded Weatherford with a five-year, $12.5 million contract, of which about $4 million was guaranteed.
"You've got punters in the NFL now that are making $4 million a year and you've got some running backs on your team that are making less than $1 million," Weatherford said. "That just goes to show you, when you do find a really good punter, you've got to hang onto him. Because you never appreciate the punter until you don't have one that you can trust and depend on."
It's a good time to be a punter in the NFL, and for that reason Weatherford and his brethren will salute Ray Guy when he gets that gold jacket.
1st round (15th overall): Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, South Florida
2nd round (46th): Linval Joseph, DT, East Carolina
3rd round (76th): Chad Jones, S, LSU
4th round (115th): Phillip Dillard, LB, Nebraska
5th round (147th): Mitch Petrus, G, Arkansas
6th round (184th): Adrian Tracy, LB, William & Mary
7th round (221st): Matt Dodge, P, East Carolina
Still with Giants: Pierre-Paul
Still in NFL: Joseph (Vikings), Dillard (Chargers), Tracy (Cardinals)
Games played with Giants
Review: Pierre-Paul and Joseph became standout players, and Joseph is gone only because the Giants decided not to pay him what the market was dictating for top defensive tackle talent this offseason. The two of them were critical components in the Giants' defensive line that helped deliver the franchise's fourth Super Bowl title following the 2011 season, and Pierre-Paul was one of the most dominant defensive players in the league that season and postseason. But after the first two rounds, this was a mess. Jones was promising, but unfortunately never got to have an NFL career as a result of a car accident that nearly killed him during that 2010 offseason. Dodge was their punter for his entire rookie season, but he'll always be remembered for failing to punt the ball out of bounds and allowing DeSean Jackson to run it back for a winning touchdown in the game that crushed their 2010 season. Dillard and Tracy add to the list of mid-round and late-round picks that haven't panned out for them over the past half-decade. If you hit on a couple of those, you're thought of as a good drafting team and you're able to build roster depth. If you hit on none of them, your roster hollows out over time, as the Giants' roster has. This draft will be thought of well if Pierre-Paul can overcome his physical issues and get himself back on the path to stardom. But with Joseph already playing elsewhere at the age of 25, the sad fact is that they didn't get much out of their seven picks in 2010.
Coughlin talked highly on Thursday of his special teams play so far this season, complimenting his kicker, punter and his coverage teams. The only area Coughlin had an issue with was the team's return game.
"We cover well and we do a good job of that and Lawrence Tynes had six of seven touchbacks the other night," Coughlin said. "The punter did a nice job with his almost plus five or ten punts and downing the ball inside the 10. The only one that the returner handled, he had a ten-yard gain but we made a nice tackle."
The Giants' special teams became a part of history for allowing the famous DeSean Jackson punt return for a touchdown that played a pivotal role in why the Giants missed the playoffs last year. Wanting to get younger, faster and more athletic in the special teams, the Giants' coverage and kicking units have improved.
Coughlin particularly praised Tynes for his ability to get touchbacks, as he had six touchbacks on seven kickoffs against the Dallas on Sunday night. For the season, Tynes now has 33 touchbacks, shattering his previous career-high mark of eight.
Tynes said he feels healthy for the first time in three years after having three surgeries this past offseason. He did give some credit for his success in touchbacks to the kickoffs being moved up this year.
"I had a goal of 30 last year and I have more than that right now," Tynes said. "The weather is a huge part of it but I'm hitting the ball better and I feel good."
When it comes to punting, the team has received an upgrade by signing Steve Weatherford to replace Matt Dodge. Weatherford is 10th in the league in net punting average and has already placed 21 balls within the 20-yard line. When his punts do allow for a return, the coverage unit has been solid.
Giants special teams coordinator Tom Quinn said that having a seasoned punter like Weatherford, who can put the ball where he wants, helps the coverage.
"That and I think better covering," Tynes said. "They have better understanding, location definitely helps, it is kind of what we have been built for since I've been here. As long as you know where it's going you have a better chance to get to where you need to defend your position."
Recap | Box score | Photos
WHAT IT MEANS: This is as devastating a loss as the Giants could've possibly experienced this season. They blew a 31-10 lead and lost on the last play of the game when rookie punter Matt Dodge committed a huge mistake by punting to DeSean Jackson, who returned the kick 65 yards for the game-winning touchdown.
The Eagles have pretty much won the NFC East with the victory -- barring a collapse over the final two games -- and the Giants now will probably have to win out to make the wild card.
THE MICHAEL VICK EXPERIENCE: Vick might have started out feeling as if he were in a bumper car. He was hit several times by a swarming Giants defense that was dialed in from the start. Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell brought pressure on the Eagles quarterback from the start when safety Deon Grant hit Vick on his first snap. Two plays later, Vick, under duress, threw a pick. The Giants brought safeties on blitzes when the front four didn't get a hand on Vick. They tried to confuse Vick by showing blitz with one safety only to bring another one in. Vick also had several of his passes knocked down at the line of scrimmage.
He finally got a break in the third quarter, thanks to a Mario Manningham fumble that set up a Vick-to-Jeremy Maclin touchdown on a blown coverage by the Giants. Vick then came to life in the fourth. He connected with tight end Brent Celek late for a 65-yard catch-and-run touchdown when Kenny Phillips missed a tackle, and Vick then scored on a quarterback draw to cut the Giants' lead to 31-24 with 5:28 left.
Vick had one last chance to tie the game with 3:01 left and 88 yards to go, and he was simply electrifying. He scrambled for 55 yards before eventually hitting Maclin for another touchdown with 1:16 left. The game-tying touchdown came when the Giants left Terrell Thomas alone on Maclin on the left side with no safety help, and Thomas whiffed on a tackle attempt after giving Maclin a cushion. Then Jackson won the game with his electric punt return.
DODGE BALL: Dodge should have never punted the ball to Jackson and clearly made a mistake, as Tom Coughlin chewed out Dodge right after Jackson scored.
SUPER MARIO: With Steve Smith out, Eli Manning keyed in on Manningham and the receiver stepped up big with eight receptions for 113 yards. Manning also relied on Hakeem Nicks and Kevin Boss. While they will miss Smith, their Pro Bowl receiver, the Giants showed on Sunday they can survive without him as they did earlier this season, when Smith missed four games due to a partially torn pectoral muscle.
FULL STRENGTH: Center Shaun O'Hara returned after missing his last six games with a sprained foot. It marked the first time the Giants' offensive line was at full strength since a game at Dallas on Oct. 25.
WHAT'S NEXT: The Giants will be celebrating Christmas weekend with a Dec. 26 game in Green Bay, where they won the NFC championship in ridiculously frigid conditions during that 2007 Super Bowl run. It isn't known whether Aaron Rodgers will be back from a concussion, but the Giants will have their hands full against the Packers in a must-win game. The Packers and Giants are fighting for their playoff lives and the winner could be the leader for a wild-card spot. One positive for the Giants is that the Packers do not run the ball much and Fewell could bring the heat again.
The Giants don't get a complete bye week. After playing in Dallas on Monday night and having Seattle in front of them next week, the team will get more of a bye long weekend. Players and coaches were in East Rutherford today, watching a little film in meetings and digesting the win over the Cowboys.
LB Michael Boley is still getting texts and emails congratulating for the clean hit that fractured Cowboy quarterback Tony Romo’s left clavicle. Looked to me like it wasn’t completely comfortable for Boley, and he said that he understands what it means for Dallas to lose a key player as Romo takes six to eight weeks to heal.
"Anytime we lose a teammate, we hate it."
Boley — who said he has never broken an opponent’s bone like that — was glad the hit wasn’t going to show up in an NFL video on illegal hits.
“Don’t want to get fined first of all, we try to leep it clean,” Boley said. “Anytime we get shots on the quarterback our intention is not to hurt anybody it’s just to make plays.”
Ahmad Bradshaw is the NFL’s leading rusher — at least until the weekend when his yardage will be overtaken by one of the players below him who isn’t on a bye. But it’s a heady place for the running back who needed ankle and foot surgery after playing in tremendous pain last season.
Running backs coach Jerald Ingram talked about his progress.
“The things that he has progressed on is learning how to protect the quarterback, being on the same page as Eli (Manning) and those kinds of situations and areas,” Ingram said. We always knew he had the potential, and the more carries you get as a running back, the better you are.
We have a full story on Bradshaw here.
Punter Matt Dodge, a rookie who has had a rough start to the season, said he took a shot at the overhead jumbotron at Cowboys Stadium — and made it on his first try.
Here’s what Giants special teams coordinator Tom Quinn had to say about the first punt Dodge made that night, a 69-yarder that Dallas RB Dez Bryant ran back 93 yards for a touchdown.
“You don’t get excited when you see the bomb because you know you have to cover it,” Quinn said. “I was happy with his consistency, and he has started to put some practices back-to-back which he didn’t do earlier in the year. That was a good punt, but obviously we have to cover a heck of a lot better. It had hang, it had distance, it had location. It wasn’t kicked down the middle of the field. We have to do a better job of taking advantage of what he can bring to the table. That next punt of his was probably one of the finer ones I’ve seen: 65 yards, out of bounds, knowing that you can’t let that guy touch it again because they were so hot right then. He really did a good job with that.”
And that's it for the Giants media availability this week. The team returns on Monday to prepare to face Seattle and guard the 5-2 record from the erosion that ate away at a 5-0 start last season.
Matt Dodge would not have been drafted by the Giants if punter Jeff Feagles hadn’t approached the team before the NFL Draft this spring and told them he was ready to retire. In the seventh round the Giants opted for Dodge, an muscular punter from East Carolina, and this summer has been like a tutorial in the position.
Feagles has been at training camp in Albany to informally coach his replacement.
The Giants former punter still isn’t quite ready to be called Coach Feagles, even though he has been helping Dodge with his motion. Dodge said that he’s gotten some useful advice that has translated into his motion.
“I had a tendency to be stiff and robotic with how I used to hold,” Dodge said “I was like catch, spin — I wasn’t doing it in a fluid motion. So he said, ‘You’re a muscular guy, you’ve got to relax a little bit.’ So now I’m a lot more relaxed and it’s a lot more natural.”
Giants coach Tom Coughlin said the situation serves the organization well.
“Feagles is the ideal guy to work on,” Coughlin said. “If you are going to come into this league as a rookie and not know anything, it’s a dream come true to work with the guy who has played more games than anybody in the history of the game at that position. It’s an ideal matchup.”
Dodge said that he wasn’t kicking as much with the Giants as he has in past seasons. The team is more judicious about using him, he estimates that he is making about a quarter of the kicks he normally does.
“These guys are very good at watching me,” Dodge said.
So far, the Giants are pleased with Dodge’s progress.
“He is very talented and very strong-legged,” Coughlin said. “Basically what it is right now is it’s a 65-yarder and a 40-yarder. Not much hang time (on the 40-yarder). His goal is to be consistent.”