Jul 152019
 
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Aldrick Rosas, New York Giants (December 2, 2018)

Aldrick Rosas – © USA TODAY Sports

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.

FIND A COMPLETE LIST OF ALL BREAKDOWNS HERE

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Special Teams

2018 YEAR IN REVIEW: Despite the fact that the New York Giants’ special teams have been a liability for years, special teams ended up being the team’s strongest unit in 2018. 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 2018 offseason, Quinn was retained as “assistant special teams coordinator.”

Overshadowed by Saquon Barkley’s phenomenal rookie season, place kicker Aldrick Rosas, who struggled in 2017, had the best year of any place kicker in team history, only missing one field goal all season. Newcomer punter Riley Dixon, who was acquired by trade, 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).

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: Six Giants returned punts in 2018, including Jawill Davis (12), Quadree Henderson (9), Odell Beckham (8), Kaelin Clay (5), Stacy Coley (2), and Corey Coleman (1). All but Coleman are gone. Five Giants returned more than one kickoff, including Coleman (23), Davis (7), Cody Latimer (5), Henderson (5), and Coley (2). Only Coleman and Latimer return.

Kerry Wynn, who had a very good year covering kicks, signed with the Bengals. The Giants did sign running back Rod Smith from the Cowboys, who was a core special teams player for that team.

The Giants signed punter Ryan Anderson after he impressed at the 2019 rookie mini-camp. Anderson last punted for Rutgers in 2017 when he was named First-Team, All-Big Ten, averaging 44.4 yards per punt.

Journeyman wide receiver/returner Brittan Golden was signed in January.

The team also added two long snappers: Taybor Pepper (who played in four games with the Packers in 2017) and rookie free agent Jake Carlock.

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: Can the Giants replicate their 2018 special teams success and even build upon it? Or will they regress back to their usual norm?

Aldrick Rosas had an incredible season in 2018. He increased his field goal percentage from 72 percent in 2017 to 97 percent in 2018, missing just one field goal, making the Pro Bowl in the process. Was his performance a flash in the pan, similar to Ali Haji-Sheikh in 1983, or is Rosas set to become one of the NFL’s best kickers for many years to come? It is interesting to note that the Giants do not have another place kicker in camp.

While Riley Dixon finished the year 7th in net punting, some think the Giants could do better. Ryan Anderson does have a strong leg and could challenge Dixon.

The Giants were very good at covering both punts and kickoffs in 2018. Using a wide cast of characters, they did a respectable job returning kickoffs but were poor in returning punts. The real questions here are who will be the primary returners in 2018? Corey Coleman averaged 26 yards per kickoff return in 2018. Cody Latimer and Jabrill Peppers also have experience returning kickoffs. Who will return punts is an even bigger mystery. The only obvious candidate at the moment is the starting strong safety Jabrill Peppers, although starting wide receiver Golden Tate also has punt return experience. However, Pat Shurmur has said that impressive rookie wide receiver Darius Slayton is also a candidate to return both kickoffs and punts.

At some point, Zak DeOssie will have to hang it up as the Giants’ long snapper. Does he hold on another year?

ON THE BUBBLE: The kickers are most likely set although Ryan Anderson could challenge Riley Dixon. Taybor Pepper or Jake Carlock would have to be really impressive to unseat Zak DeOssie as long snapper. Brittan Golden has experience returning kickoffs and punts, but has an uphill climb to make the team. The Giants have a number of core special teams players who may not make it including Nate Stupar, Kenny Ladler, Russell Shepard, Antonio Hamilton, and Rod Smith.

FROM THE COACHES: Head Coach Pat Shurmur on Jake Carlock: “He is a very good long snapper. We are always looking for guys at skill positions. He is a very accomplished linebacker as well. Much like (Eric) Dungey who can compete at different areas, he is going to do the same.”

Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey on whether he would hesitate to have a starter return kicks or punts: “Nope, not at all. It’s a play-making position. When you think about it over the years and you watch punt returners that have had success that have played on defense – the Deion Sanders, and all those guys. That’s a play-making position. That’s one of those positions where you can change the game just like that. I have no reservation by putting any kind of starter back there, because that’s a play that can change the game. We know 75 percent of game in the NFL comes down to the last possession. Any time you could gain an advantage on your opponent, you want to get that advantage.”

McGaughey on Jabrill Peppers: “High energy, the guy is a for sure ball handler. Can make all the cuts full speed. He just brings juice. I’ve known the kid since he was 16 years old. I recruited him when I was at LSU. Jabrill is a special athlete. He can do anything – run the football, catch the football, whatever. He’s just a great athlete… Yes, he’s going to (return kicks and punts for us)… That’s football – he’s a safety in the NFL. Those guys primarily do everything. When you look at them, most of them are three-core, four-core guys when they play. That’s just the reality of it, especially a young safety with a lot of energy like Jabrill.”

McGaughey on WR Russell Shepard, LB Nate Stupar, and CB Antonio Hamilton: “Those guys were the foundation of what we did last year. Whenever you can get veteran leadership and you can have continuity, that’s the most important thing. When you get guys that have done it before, and they’ve done it at a high level, and you can keep them in the same spots – it’s no different from having an offensive line with continuity, a secondary with continuity, it’s the same thing. A core group of special teams players. They’re no different from anyone else. You got to have that continuity if you want to have consistency.”

McGaughey on Rod Smith: “Big, strong, athletic, smart, playmaker – whenever you can get a guy like that on your roster to provide depth, and having value as a running back. (General Manager Dave) Gettleman always talks about having value on offense and defense, not just on special teams. He punches all the tickets. He’s a hard worker, he’s a pro, and he does everything you ask him to do. He’s 6’3”, 235 pounds, and has a skillset. He’s one of those guys if you’re sitting in a room, you won’t even know he’s there. He’s quiet, he comes in, and he works, and he does his job.”

McGaughey on Ryan Anderson: “Ryan is a lefty. Whenever you can bring a lefty in, and you can get a righty spin and a lefty spin is always good. Ryan has a lot of potential. His maturation from last year to this year has been huge. He came here last year to our local day. To see him again this year was a big difference. You can tell he’s been working on his craft, and he’s been working hard. It’s good to have him in to have a little competition. It’s always good to have two guys in where they can kind of compete against each other. It makes it better.”

McGaughey on Jake Carlock: “He’s a young guy with a lot of potential. He can run, he’s very athletic. So what we’ll see what happens with Jake. We’re excited about the chance of working with him.”

McGaughey on Eric Dungey: “He’s going to have a chance somewhere, right? We’ll put him out there. We’ll find a home for him. He’s athletic, he’s a tough kid. We’ll find a home for him. Those types of kids in college that are athletic quarterbacks, they always kind of find a way. They’ll figure out something. They’re athletic, they’ve always competed at a high-level, so they’ll find a way… Anytime you can get a big athlete that’s tough, that’s smart, that’s played the quarterback position, anytime you can get a style of athlete like that, and he’s coachable and is willing, a lot of good things can happen.”

PREDICTIONS: Saquon Barkley overshadowed the incredible performance of Aldrick Rosas in 2018. But the psychology of kickers tends to be on the fragile side and Rosas has to prove that 2018 wasn’t a fluke. If he becomes a perennial Pro Bowler, Rosas may be one of Jerry Reese’s most positive legacies.

Who returns kickoffs and punts seems up in the air at this point. My guess is that Corey Coleman remains the leading candidate to return kickoffs, but he could be pressed by Darius Slayton. For as much press as Jabrill Peppers receives as an athletic returnman, he only averaged 22 yards per kickoff return thus far in the NFL.

Peppers could end up being the primary punt returner, as he has returned 55 punts in the last two season for the Cleveland Browns, averaging 7.3 yards per return.

I think the Giants are going to face some tough roster decisions on veteran special teams players such as Rod Smith, Russell Shepard, Nate Stupar, Antonio Hamilton, and Kenny Ladler. My gut also tells me that either Eric Dungey or Jake Carlock will make the team as a special teams ace and jack-of-all-trades type player. The Giants face a bit of a dilemma with the ever-consistent Zak DeOssie. He plays a position where age isn’t a huge factor, and not only does he do a fine job of long-snapping, but he’s good at covering kicks. But he also doesn’t play another position. That said, Giants fans know all too well how costly having a bad long snapper can be.

FINAL DEPTH CHART: Aldrick Rosas and Riley Dixon the kickers. Zak DeOssie as the long snapper, Corey Coleman as the kickoff returner and Jabrill Peppers as the punt returner. It’s too early to tell how legitimate a shot that Eric Dungey or Jake Carlock have in making the team, but I think one of these two will. If both falter, another one of the veteran core special teams players will make it.

Mar 042019
 
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Aldrick Rosas, New York Giants (December 2, 2018)

Aldrick Rosas – © USA TODAY Sports

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.

THE KICKERS

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.

THE RETURNERS

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).

Dec 162018
 
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Evan Engram, Saquon Barkley, Eli Manning; New York Giants (December 16, 2018)

A Disappointing Day for the Offense – © USA TODAY Sports

TENNESSEE TITANS 17 – NEW YORK GIANTS 0…
The New York Giants saw their slim playoff hopes evaporate on Sunday as the team was shut out 17-0 by the Tennessee Titans at a rainy MetLife Stadium. The Giants are now officially out of the playoff hunt. With the loss, the Giants fell to 5-9, guaranteeing their fifth losing season in the past six years.

While Tennessee only passed the ball for 86 net yards, the Titans out-gained the Giants in first downs (22 to 15), total net yards (301 to 260), net yards rushing (215 to 47), and time of possession (35:21 to 24:39).

The Giants’ five first-half possessions ended with four punts and a sack as time expired. Yet only trailing 7-0 at halftime, quarterback Eli Manning had two killer turnovers to start the second half, including a bad interception and fumble. The Giants survived the first, but not the second as Tennessee’s second touchdown near the end of the third quarter all but officially sealed the game. The Titans added another field goal in the fourth quarter as the Giants punted two more times. Until New York’s last drive, the closest the Giants got to the end zone was the Tennessee 29-yard line. The Giants reached the 4-yard line on their final possession but turned the ball over on downs.

Manning finished the game 21-of-44 for 229 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception. He was also sacked three times. His leading receiver was tight end Evan Engram (8 catches for 75 yards). Running back Saquon Barkley was held to 31 yards on 14 carries.

The defense kept the Giants in the game until late in the third quarter, but they did not create a turnover and only had one sack (by safety Michael Thomas).

Video lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INACTIVE LIST AND INJURY REPORT…
Inactive for the New York Giants were wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. (quad), quarterback Kyle Lauletta, tight end Garrett Dickerson, center Evan Brown, nose tackle John Jenkins, cornerback Tony Lippett, and safety Kamrin Moore.

Center Spencer Pulley (calf) and cornerback Antonio Hamilton (quad) both left the game with injuries and did not return. Defensive end Kerry Wynn (unknown) had post-game x-rays taken.

POST-GAME REACTION…
Transcripts and video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Pat Shurmur and the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Head Coach Pat Shurmur and select players will address the media on Monday.

Jul 162018
 
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Aldrick Rosas, New York Giants (August 31, 2017)

Aldrick Rosas – © USA TODAY Sports

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.

FIND A COMPLETE LIST OF ALL BREAKDOWNS HERE

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Special Teams

2017 YEAR IN REVIEW: Hired by the team in 2006, Tom Quinn somehow managed to become one of the longest tenured assistant coaches on the New York Giants. From 2006-2017, there was a revolving door of offensive coordinators, defensive coordinators, and position coaches. But Quinn survived each offseason until January 2018 despite the fact that New York’s special teams were annually a sub-par unit. His last year may have been his worst. In 2017, the Giants were:

  • 31st in field goal percentage (72 percent).
  • 32nd in extra point percentage (87 percent).
  • 32nd in net punting (38.6 yards per punt).
  • 28th in kickoff returns (19.6 yards per return).
  • 31st in punt returns (5.5 yards per return).
  • 14th in kickoff coverage (20.5 yards per return).
  • 27th in punt coverage (10.4 yards per return).

In short, the Giants were a train wreck on special teams.

ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: Punter Brad Wing’s statistics plummeted in 2017 and the Giants cut him in March. Punt/kickoff returner Dwayne Harris spent most of the season on IR and was also cut in March.

Place kicker Marshall Koehn was signed in January 2018. The Giants acquired punter Riley Dixon by trade from the Denver Broncos shortly before the draft. The Giants also signed punter Taylor Symmank in June.

TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: Enter Thomas McGaughey as the team’s new special teams coach. Ironically, McGaughey served under Tom Quinn from 2007 to 2010. Even more ironically, the Panthers decided to let McGaughey walk when his contract expired as they wanted to promote former Giants’ linebacker Chase Blackburn to the position.

Riley Dixon replaces Brad Wing as punter. Both players were acquired by trade. Hopefully, Dixon works out better than Wing did. The 6’4”, 221-pound Dixon was originally drafted in the 7th round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Broncos. In 16 regular-season games as a rookie, Dixon punted 89 times and averaged 45.7 yards per punt (41.3 yard net). He was named to the all-rookie team. In 2017, Dixon punted 73 times and averaged 45.6 yards per punt (40.2 yard net) with two blocked punts.

The 6’2”, 195-pound Taylor Symmank was not drafted in 2016. The Minnesota Vikings signed him in January 2017 and waived him in early September of that year. Symmank punted nine times during the 2017 preseason, averaging 42.9 yards per punt.

More media and fan focus is likely to be on Aldrick Rosas. The Giants gambled on the green kicker in 2017 and got burned. Rosas was 17-of-25 (72 percent) on field goals and 20-of-23 (87 percent on extra points). Most alarming was his inconsistency on field goal attempts from 30 to 49 yards out, where he was 7-of-14 (50 percent). Somewhat surprisingly, the Giants still have not signed a veteran to compete against him. Marshall Koehn was originally signed by the Miami Dolphins as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2016 NFL Draft. He has spent time with the Dolphins (2016), Minnesota Vikings (2017), and Cincinnati Bengals (2017), but he’s played in only one regular-season game with no field goal attempts. So the new coaching staff also appears enamored with Rosas’ potential. Will their patience pay off?

With Dwayne Harris gone, it is not clear who will return kickoffs and punts for the team in 2018. The diminutive Kalif Raymond ended up the leading kickoff and punt returner last season, but there is no guarantee that he will even make the 2018 squad. Even if he does, ball security is an issue with him as Raymond has seven fumbles in his 12 NFL regular-season games.

The good news is that it appears the Giants made a conscious effort to sign good special teams players in the offseason, including wide receiver Russell Shepard, safety Michael Thomas, wide receiver Cody Latimer, and cornerback Teddy Williams.

ON THE BUBBLE: Everyone. Kickers don’t need to know schemes or playbooks. They are easily replaceable if a decent one hits the waiver wire. The 2019 7th rounder the Giants gave the Broncos for Riley Dixon is a conditional pick. So he’s not safe. The Giants kick and punt returners also may not be on the roster yet.

FROM THE COACHES: Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey on Michael Thomas: “Absolutely (one of the best special teams players in the NFL). Mike is the ultimate competitor, he does an outstanding job in the coverage game, he’s a smart player…Mike is a high impact player and we look forward to him making big plays.”

McGaughey on Aldrick Rosas: “I see a kid that was a rookie last year and like most rookies in this league, they’re inconsistent. It’s rare where you see a rookie that just comes in and just rips it up just walking through the door. He’s young and like Dave Gettleman always says, we’re not going to give up on talent. He’s a talented guy and there’s some things that he can do that a lot of people can’t do and I think there’s some talent there and we’re going to work with that talent.”

Head Coach Pat Shurmur on whether or not he would risk Saquon Barkley on returns: “He’ll perform return duties – typically, not normally your first returner.”

PREDICTIONS: Special teams studs Cody Latimer and Mike Thomas should really help the coverage units. More linebackers on the roster such as Lorenzo Carter should also help. Riley Dixon most likely will be the punter. If Aldrick Rosas is shaky in the preseason, look for the Giants to make a move either by trade or picking up a discarded veteran. Who returns kickoffs? Who returns punts? With so many unknowns, Thomas McGaughey is not in an enviable position.

FINAL DEPTH CHART: At this point, it would appear Riley Dixon will be the punter. The Giants obviously are pulling for Aldrick Rosas to nail down the place-kicking job. Are the returners even on the roster? If the answer is yes, Kalif Raymond probably makes the team.

Apr 212018
 
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Riley Dixon, Denver Broncos (October 1, 2017)

Riley Dixon – © USA TODAY Sports

PUNTER RILEY DIXON TRADED TO NEW YORK GIANTS…
The New York Giants have acquired punter Riley Dixon from the Denver Broncos in exchange for a conditional 7th-round draft pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Dixon became expendable after the Broncos signed Marquette King as a free agent earlier this month. Dixon will compete with Austin Rehkow, who the Giants signed in January. The Giants cut Brad Wing in March.

The 24-year old, 6’4”, 221-pound Dixon was originally drafted in the 7th round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Broncos. In 16 regular-season games as a rookie, Dixon punted 89 times and averaged 45.7 yards per punt (41.3 yard net). He was named to the all-rookie team. In 2017, Dixon punted 73 times and averaged 45.6 yards per punt (40.2 yard net) with two blocked punts. Dixon is a big, strong-legged punter.

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