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For years, the special teams of the New York Giants had been far from special, costing the team a number of games each season, often in painful fashion. New Head Coach Pat Shurmur chose not to bring back long-time special teams coordinator Tom Quinn and hired Thomas McGaughey to be the new coordinator and Anthony Blevins as his assistant. However, since McGaughey was diagnosed with cancer during the offseason, Quinn was retained as “assistant special teams coordinator.” Obviously, this was far from an ideal situation.
Making matters worse is the Giants were rolling the dice again on talented, but extremely inconsistent place kicker Aldrick Rosas, who only converted on 72 percent of his field goal attempts and 87 percent of his extra point attempts in 2017. The Giants cut Brad Wing in March and traded for another punter, Riley Dixon, in April. And it was anybody’s guess who would be returning kickoffs and punts.
Ironically, in the end, special teams ended up being the team’s strongest unit in 2018. Overshadowed by Saquon Barkley, Rosas had the best year of any place kicker in team history, only missing one field goal all season. Dixon finished 7th in net punting. The Giants were 7th in the NFL in kickoff returns (24.4 yards per return) and 28th in punt returns (6.2 yards per return). The Giants were also 2nd-best in defending kickoff returns (20.4 yards per return) and 7th-best in defending punt returns (6.6 yards per return). The Giants did not return a punt or kick for a touchdown and they did not allow a punt or kick to be returned against them for a touchdown.
Two Giants made the Pro Bowl as special teams players, Rosas and first-team alternate Michael Thomas, who led the team with 12 special teams tackles. Other leading tacklers included Kerry Wynn (8), Kenny Ladler (8), Nate Stupar (8), and Russell Shepard (6).
The Giants special teams held up their end of the bargain in 2018. Rosas also deserves far more attention than he received.
Perhaps the team’s biggest surprise in 2018 was the performance of place kicker Aldrick Rosas, who missed only one field goal all year and made the Pro Bowl. Rosas made 32-of-33 kicks (a franchise-record 97 percent). He also kicked a team-record 57-yard field goal. Rosas was 31-of-32 on extra point attempts. Fifty-one of his 85 kickoff attempts (60 percent) resulted in touchbacks. Rosas was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Tennessee Titans after the 2016 NFL Draft. He did not make the team. The Giants signed him to a reserve/futures contract in January 2017. He had a poor first season with the Giants, converting on just 72 percent of his field goals and 87 percent of his extra points. He also had four kicks blocked in 2017.
The Giants traded with the Denver Broncos for Riley Dixon in April 2018, giving the Broncos a conditional 7th-round draft pick. He had a solid inaugural year for the Giants, finishing 7th in net punting in the NFL (41.8 yards per punt). Dixon finished 11th in gross punting with 45.4 yards per punt. However, only 20 of his punts were pinned inside the 20-yard line. The 6’4”, 221-pound Dixon was originally drafted in the 7th round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Broncos. He was named to the All-Rookie team.
Eight Giants returned a total of 45 kickoffs in 2018. Twenty-three of those were returned by Corey Coleman, who the Giants signed to the Practice Squad and then the 53-man roster in October. He ended up playing in eight games with one start, finishing with five catches for 71 yards. Coleman’s primary contribution came on special teams as as kickoff returner (averaging 26 yards per return). The 5’11”, 185-pound Coleman was originally drafted in the 1st round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. An explosive athlete but an injury-plagued bust in Cleveland, Coleman has also had brief stints with the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots in 2018. Coleman has played in 27 NFL games with 19 starts, accruing 61 catches for 789 yards and five touchdowns.
Six Giants returned a total of 37 punts in 2018, with Jawill Davis returning 12 punts and Quadree Henderson returning nine.
The Giants signed Davis as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2018 NFL Draft. He was signed to the Practice Squad after the final preseason cutdown and then signed to the 53-man roster in September. Davis injured his knee during the last practice of the year and was placed on Injured Reserve before the last game. Davis has average size, but he is a good athlete with excellent speed. He played in seven games for the Giants, catching four passes for 40 yards. He also returned 12 punts (7.4 yards per return) and seven kickoffs (24.4 yards per return).
The Giants placed Henderson on Injured Reserve in late November 2018 with a fractured shoulder. The 5’8”, 192-pound Henderson was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Pittsburgh Steelers after the 2018 NFL Draft. The Steelers waived him before the season started. The Giants signed Henderson to the Practice Squad and then the 53-man roster in October 2018, and then back to the Practice Squad and the 53-man roster again in November. Henderson played in five games for the Giants and returned five kickoffs (22.4 yards per return average) and nine punts (7.6 yards per return average).