New York Giants special teams coordinator Tom Quinn entered his tenth season as coordinator for the Giants in 2016, in what was overall a solid year for the unit.
Special teams can be seen as quite an underrated element of pro football, as so much important field position is gained and lost by the special teams units. Overall in 2016 for New York, it was the punting unit that excelled, whereas the punt and kick return game took a hit.
Reviewing the New York Giants Special Teams Situation
Robbie Gould – Kicker
Kicker was an interesting position for Big Blue in 2016. The Giants entered the season with 2015 Pro Bowler Josh Brown as the team’s kicker after re-signing him to a two year deal.
However, after a one game suspension by the NFL for violation of the Personal Conduct Policy, Randy Bullock came in for the first game of the season vs the Dallas Cowboys. Brown later returned for five games, making 11 out of 12 field goals with a 91.7% conversion rate.
However, after the NFL reopened its Brown probe after further abuse claims, the 37-year-old veteran kicker was cut by the Giants in late October.
This led to the signing of fellow veteran kicker and free agent Robbie Gould, formerly of the Chicago Bears.
There are questions surrounding Gould and whether he will stay with the Giants next year, but the 35-year-old did improve steadily throughout the 2016 season. Although he doesn’t have as strong a kick as others in the league, he still made 100% of field goals – with a long of 47 yards, but did miss three Points-After-Touchdown’s however.
So, it has been an eventful season for the Giants at kicker, and although Gould brought some stability to that aspect of the special teams, it’s still unclear on how New York will move forward here.
Dwayne Harris – Kick and Punt Returner
Dwayne Harris only had one reception for 13 yards and a touchdown as a wide receiver in 2016, after instead being used more in the special teams units. The 29-year-old in his second season with the Giants made the 2016 Pro Bowl roster after a mixed season.
Firstly, Harris has seen a decline in his productivity in returning kicks and punts. In 2015, the 202 pound former East Carolina man returned both kicks and punts for touchdowns. However, Harris finished 2016 with no touchdowns returned, along with a downturn in yardage gained on these returns. From 2015 to 2016, Harris’ production declined from a total of 341 yards to 170 yards on punt returns, along with a decline from 631 yards to 533 yards on kick returns.
Due to this form downturn, the use of star receiver Odell Beckham Jr to return punts became increasingly prominent. Whilst Beckham returned two of these returns for touchdowns before they were called back for holding penalties, there’s an argument for whether a star player like Beckham shouldn’t be used in positions like this where he’s at more of a risk of injury.
Meanwhile, Harris had much for success as part of the punting unit this season – one of the key areas of his game that led to him gaining his place at the Pro Bowl. He had great success in downing balls on punts inside the 20 yard line on multiple occasions, including one in an important situation in Week 14 against Dallas which he downed inside the five yard line – helping Big Blue to a 10-7 win at MetLife Stadium against a team on an impressive 11 game winning streak.
So, some people were surprised to see Harris at the Pro Bowl, but it’s clear how useful he is for special teams units.
Brad Wing – Punter
Much of Dwayne Harris and the punting units’ success in 2016 was down to the punter himself. Brad Wing, in his second season with the Giants, had a very good season and was probably the Giants Special Teams player of the year.
The 26-year-old Australian native has very good punting technique, bringing much of it from the Australian Football he grew up playing. For example, his boomerang punts had success throughout the season and helped the Giants punting unit gain yardage.
Wing punted 93 times in the 2016 regular season for 4297 yards – the highest yardage in his career, as well as leading to the Giants being ranked third in the NFL for punting yards. (Although it is worth noting that much of this may have been down to the Giants going three-and-out on 30% of drives, putting them 30th in the league.)
The Melbourne-born former LSU punter had an average of 46.2 yards per punt in 2016; the highest of his career. Additionally, he made 28 punts that were downed inside the 20 yard line, with the field position gained being one of the catalysts to the Giants Special Teams successes.
So, these are the sorts of statistics and successes that Wing had in 2016, helping his case for being one of the better punters in the NFL.
The Last Word
To conclude, these were some of the key players on the Giants Special Teams in 2016. It has been a solid season for Tom Quinn’s unit, and it will be interesting to see where the Giants go from here in terms of personnel and player positioning going into 2017.