We have reviewed various aspects of the New York Giants' 2012 season trying to find out what went right, what went wrong and what needs to be fixed for the 2013 season.
One area we haven't touched on is the special teams play. So, let's do that today.
David Wilson, as Giants' fans know, gave the Giants the most dangerous kickoff return man they have had in many years. He averaged 26.9 yards per return, with one touchdown, in 57 returns. The Giants finished sixth in the league in kickoff return at 26.2 yards per return.
The question with Wilson will be how much he returns kickoffs going forward. It seems almost certain that his role in the offense will be increasing, and historically with the Giants (and most NFL teams) an increased role on offense or defense means a decreased role for a player on special teams.
Don't be surprised if Wilson is used less often to return kickoffs going forward. Remember, Ahmad Bradshaw handled quite a bit of kickoff return his first two seasons. Jerrel Jernigan and Da'Rel Scott both showed some aptitude for kickoff return in 2011 and could see more action there in 2011. In Scott's case, of course, that is dependent on him actually making the team in 2013.
Rueben Randle proved reliable on punt return in a Phil McConkey sort of way, meaning you could trust him to catch it, secure it and not fumble it. He averaged only 7.2 yards per return, though, and the Giants turned that job over to Domenik Hixon late in the season. Hixon didn't do any better, also averaging 7.2 yards per return. That 7.2 yards per return average put the Giants 30th in the league.
It's a pretty safe bet that the Giants will look for a more explosive punt returner in 2013. They tried to give that job to Jernigan, who can make people miss but can't catch the ball reliably. Jayron Hosley flashed ability, but got hurt and never got a chance to do that job in the regular season.
Hosley, or a newcomer, could get that job in 2013.
Lawrence Tynes was second in the league with 33 made field goals. That's good. The fact that he was second in the league is attempts with 39 is bad -- the Giants needed him way too often. Tynes was outstanding most of the season, but missed four of his last seven attempts, including a 30-yarder.
Tynes is what he is after nine years in the league, a mostly reliable kicker who will once in a while miss a kick that leaves you shaking your head and wondering how that could happen. He is a free agent, and I believe the Giants should -- and will -- retain him. Look around the league and you can certainly do a lot worse, even if Tynes' field-goal conversion percentage of 84.62 was only 17th in the league in 2012.
There are not a lot of punters in the NFL worthy of five-year contracts. The Giants gave Steve Weatherford one before the 2012 season, and he spent the year kicking like a guy intent on earning his money. The guy keeps getting better
In 2011, he averaged 45.7 yards per punt -- three yards better than he had ever done. In 2012, his seventh year in the league, Weatherford bettered that by two more yards -- averaging 47.5 yards per punt. Weatherford had a 39.4 yard net average, and dropped 22 of 58 punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line.
The Giants surrendered 23.7 yards per kickoff return, putting them right in the middle of the league at 16th. The 39.4 yard net average on punts was 18th, again pretty much middle of the league. Guys like Will Hill, Justin Tryon, Zak DeOssie and Spencer Paysinger excelled in coverage. There really wasn't much to complain about here -- the work wasn't dominant, but it certainly didn't hurt the Giants, either.