2011 Giants' Position Battles: Matt Dodge Vs. Steve Weatherford

Matt Dodge is having an excellent preseason after a rough rookie year with the New York Giants. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Matt Dodge heard the booing from New York Giants' fans the first time he stepped on the home turf to punt Monday night against the Chicago Bears, calling it "pretty brutal." He answered the booing with a 63-yard bomb of a punt.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin noticed the booing, and noticed the cheers after Dodge bombed his first punt.

"I would imagine a 63-yarder that pinned them to the goal would help," Coughlin said. "First of all he has to prove it and I understand that, but it would be good to think that a guy playing in that uniform at home would be well received by these fans."

The smattering of boos, though, was understandable. Dodge has a mostly miserable, inconsistent season as a rookie with the Giants in 2010. Giants fans will never forget the awful mistake Dodge made against the Philadelphia Eagles, punting a ball inbounds to DeSean Jackson on the final play of a game that resulted in a season-killing loss. I don't have to remind you what Jackson did with that mistake.

When the Giants signed veteran punter Steve Weatherford, one of the league's best punters the past couple of seasons as a free agent the assumption had to be that Dodge would be shown the door and the Giants would move on with a more consistent, reliable punter.

Funny thing about that, though. Dodge is putting up one helluva fight to keep his job. Through the first two preseason games Dodge has done nothing but hit beautiful punt after beautiful punt. To be fair, Weatherford has matched him kick for kick.

The numbers.

  • Dodge -- Six punts, 48.2 yards per punt average, 37.0 net, two punts downed inside the 20, 47 total return yards allowed.
  • Weatherford -- Six punts, 50.5 yards per punt average, 46.5 net, two punts downed inside the 20, 24 total return yards allowed.

Coughlin, as you might expect, said he "wouldn't speculate" on which punter might be leading the competition.

The fact that there is a question at all is a credit to Dodge. Earlier in the preseason I wrote "Steve Weatherford is one of the best punters in the league and will get the job."

Well, not so fast. Dodge has turned this into a real competition, and as fond as the Giants are of keeping their draft picks it seems -- like it or not -- that Dodge has kicked his way into having a chance to keep the job.

"I think I have been doing pretty good. I think last game I did alright. I didn't punt much throughout the game but I think in practice I have been getting better and better," Dodge said. "I think it is pretty close and we are punting well. (Weatherford) punts well all the time so I have to step my game up just to be on the same field as him. I just have to keep working hard."

Dodge said that the directional kicking the Giants demand is "not really foreign to me anymore."

"When you have a head coach telling you we need it by the sidelines before you punt it every time, you have to try. It comes with time and the more consistent ball you can hit, the better direction you are going to do it," Dodge said.

Personally, I still believe the Giants choose Weatherford. That, however, is not the slam dunk it looked like a few weeks ago.

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