Anyone who has been reading Big Blue View for a while understands that I am not the world's biggest fan of Giants' special teams coordinator Tom Quinn. That said, during the bye week I am going to try and offer some analysis of the offense, defense and special teams. I am going to start today with the special teams, and I am going to try and take my distaste for Quinn out of the equation.
The play of these groups has seemingly been a sore spot with the Giants for years. It seems like there has always been a problem somewhere, sometimes multiple problems in multiple places. Let's look at how the various special teams groups are performing so far in 2011.
Let's start with a look at the basic kick and punt coverage numbers:
Kick Returns: 23.2 yards per return (19th)
Punt Returns: 9.4 yards per return (18th)
Kick Coverage: 23.3 yards allowed per return (18th)
Punt Coverage: 38.2 yards net per punt (17th)
Those numbers are decidedly middle-of-the pack. None of them are great, but none of them are bad, either. You know what? Considering the issues the Giants had in these areas last season these numbers are perfectly acceptable. The Giants aren't excelling, but they aren't getting killed by these groups like they did a season ago, either.
Devin Thomas is the most dangerous kickoff returner the Giants have had in a while. Among returners with at least 10 returns thus far, Thomas' average of 25.2 yards per return is ninth in the league. Quinn says Thomas has had "too many muffs" and needs to "start catching the ball cleaner."
Maybe so, although I haven't noticed a lot of issues with catching the ball. For the most part, I also have not had issues with his judgment on whether or not to bring the ball out of the end zone.
Aaron Ross has wanted to return punts for the for years now, and he is doing a nice job. His average of 9.0 yards per return is 21st out of 30 return men in the league with at least six returns, but he seems to be maximizing whatever is available, has been very secure with the ball and I like the fact that he catches the ball and gets upfield quickly.
"He does a good job of wanting to catch the ball and go. Not a whole lot of dance. [Ross] tries to get vertical as quick as he can," Quinn said.
Steve Weatherford has been a terrific addition by the Giants, as we thought he would be when the Giants signed him to replace Matt Dodge. Most surprisingly, Weatherford is averaging 46.4 yards per punt. He has a career average of 43.2, and has not averaged better than 43 yards per punt since 2007. More importantly, his net average -- punt yardage minus returns -- is 38.2, a huge improvement over Dodge's 34.3 net average of a season ago.
Lawrence Tynes has had only six field-goal attempts, making four. The biggest concern is that both misses were blocked, and that is an issue the Giants have got to correct. It also happened in preseason. The new kickoff rule has helped Tynes immensely. He has 16 touchbacks this season, with 53.3 percent of his kicks not being returned. That is 13th in the league. A year ago Tynes was 23rd in the league, with only 7.7 percent of his kickoffs going for touchbacks.
There is, obviously, room for improvement. The good thing, though, is that while the Giants may not have gotten many really big plays from their special teams units, they are not getting hurt by them as they have in the past. That is a step in the right direction.