Asked to look back at what the New York Giants did well on special teams in 2014 and what they did poorly, special teams coordinator Tom Quinn said Saturday that the punt game was the primary disappointment last season.
"Punt is the one area that we did not meet our goal. You want to have a 40-yard net now and we are under that," Quinn said. "We continue to emphasize with the hang time and the location of the punts. Get better at that and get better at covering it. I think we have done that with some of the acquisitions we have made."
The Giants averaged 38.6 net yards per punt last season, 22nd in the league.
Part of the reason may have been the health of punter Steve Weatherford, who punted the entire season despite suffering torn ligaments in his left ankle during the 2014 season opener. Weatherford also punted through a late-season back injury.
"He had the ankle and then he had the back. He was banged up all year. It was really unfortunate for how hard he trains. He puts the time in the weight room to stay healthy," Quinn said. "I think he might be lifting now as we are talking."
The reality, though, is that all the blame for that can't fall on Weatherford. The Giants haven't had a net punting average above 40 yards since averaging 40.4 yards in 2008, when Jeff Feagles was still healthy. They have averaged above 39 yards net twice in Weatherford's four seasons with the Giants. Direction of the punts may have sometimes been an issue in 2014, but the players covering the punts also have to be considered part of the problem.
The Giants hope to have improved that area with the free-agent signings of Dwayne Harris, Jonathan Casillias, J.T. Thomas and draft picks like Geremy Davis and Mykkele Thompson.
"Guys that we have picked up have played at a high level on those teams," Quinn said. "Casillas has made a living doing it. J.T. Thomas has done it even though he was starting. He would still cover kicks. Adding those guys with speed and experience is always a positive."