With New York Giants training camp beginning in late July, BigBlueInteractive.com (BBI) breaks down each of the team’s positional groups until the players report at Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Special Teams
2016 YEAR IN REVIEW: The Giants place-kicking situation was upended midway through 2016 when super-steady Josh Brown – who had made over 91 percent of his field goal attempts since joining the Giants in 2013 – was unceremoniously cut due to significant off-the-field issues. The Giants replaced him with long-time Chicago Bear Robbie Gould who was a perfect 10-of-10 on field goal attempts in 10 regular-season games.
Punter Brad Wing had a strong season in 2016, averaging 46.2 yards per punt (40.9 yard net). He had 28 kicks downed inside the 20-yard line. Wing was also named “NFC Special Teams Player of the Week” twice.
In his second year with the Giants, Dwayne Harris suffered through a frustrating, injury-plagued season. While he played in all 16 regular-season games, Harris was hampered by a variety of nagging injuries all season. His special teams return numbers plummeted with his punt return average falling from 10.0 yards to 5.9 yards and his kickoff return average falling from 28.7 yards to 24.2 yards. He also did not score a year after becoming the first Giants player in 60 years to return a kickoff and punt for a touchdown in the same season in 2015. Harris did remain a force on punt coverage and he was voted to his first Pro Bowl. With Harris ailing, Bobby Rainey (six punt and eight kickoff returns) and Odell Beckham, Jr. (10 punt returns) shared return duties.
Overall, the Giants finished 2016 7th in kickoff return average (23.8 yards per return) and 29th in punt return average (6.1 yards per return). On the flip side, the Giants were 23rd in covering kickoffs (22.8 yards per return) and 19th in covering punts (8.9 yards per return). The Giants neither scored nor allowed touchdowns on returns, but the Giants did return a blocked field goal attempt for a touchdown.
ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: Robbie Gould signed a 2-year contract with the San Francisco 49ers in March. Place kicker Aldrick Rosas was signed by the Giants to a reserve/future contract in January 2017. Rosas was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Tennessee Titans after the 2016 NFL Draft, but he did not make the team.
TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: On special teams, the story clearly is the unknown and unproven 22-year old Aldrick Rosas. Currently, Rosas is facing no competition for the job. Games and seasons often come down to field goal kicks. Indeed, Rosas may be THE most important player to follow in the preseason.
A secondary story line is whether or not Dwayne Harris can rebound from a disappointing and injury-plagued 2016 season. Harris is due to make $2.475 million salary in 2017 and $3.225 million in 2018 and 2019. He needs to justify those high salary figures.
ON THE BUBBLE: Even though he is currently facing no veteran competition, clearly Aldrick Rosas is on the hot seat. A discarded veteran kicker could be added at any time.
FROM THE POSITIONAL COACH: Tom Quinn on Aldrick Rosas: “Aldrick has done well. He’s really progressed from when we first put hands on him and started working with him. He’s gotten better every day, so that’s really been encouraging. He’s been consistent. Big guys we try to tighten them up a little bit and he’s done really well. Very coachable. Very strong leg, and he’s had good accuracy this spring.”
Quinn on Brad Wing: “He’s got a tremendous work ethic… I think as his confidence grows and you could see the true ability come out, and he’s got a lot of ability. He’s very talented.”
Quinn on Dwayne Harris: “Yes (we view him as our primary returner). We’ve always needed two or three guys since I’ve been here to be able to handle those roles. You have Dwayne, you have Odell. Kickoff returns, he was fine. On punt returns, he took a step back, which we don’t like. We’ve talked about it and addressed the things we want to improve on… When you get beaten down so much like he does because he plays some tough positions and throws his body around and is relentless, every time you return it, you’re going to take hits. He got hurt early and never really rebounded from it. It was a tough year, but he had a heck of a year as a coverage man. First year, we saw what we wanted returner wise. Second year, we saw coverage, so hopefully this year we can throw it all together.”
PREDICTIONS: It’s impossible to make an informed prediction on Aldrick Rosas because he is such an unknown commodity. He has the tools and the Giants obviously like what they have seen in the spring from him. But you cannot replicate real-game pressure. It is those pressure kicks and consistency that define a place kicker. If he falters in the preseason, look for the Giants to quickly add a veteran to the mix.
FINAL DEPTH CHART: Brad Wing and Dwayne Harris are givens. Right now, it is Aldrick Rosas’ job to lose.