Special teams, in particular the kicking game, has been especially damaging to the New York Giants’ hopes of winning football games during the 2017 season.
Punter Brad Wing had damaging late-game punts in back-to-back weeks. A 28-yard punt on the Giants’ final possession in Week 3 helped the Philadelphia Eagles get field position needed to set up a 61-yard game-winning field goal by Jake Elliott. A 15-yarder in fourth quarter of a Week 4 game with the Giants leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 17-16, helped fuel a Bucs’ victory.
Wing had a punt partially blocked last week against the Seattle Seahawks. He also 31st in the league in punts downed inside the opponents’ 20-yard line, at just 19.5 percent. He’s 26th in the league in touchback percentage at 9.8. Only the Pittsburgh Steelers have a worse net punting average this season than Wing’s 37.2 yards.
Wing has also seen best buddy Odell Beckham Jr. go down for the season with a fractured ankle.
Placekicker Aldrick Rosas is a great story, having made it to the NFL after kicking collegiately for an NAIA school. He has made only 7-of-10 field goals, albeit having had one of those blocked. His two straight-up misses were also critical ones, a 47-yarder that would have tied last week’s game in the fourth quarter against Seattle and a 43-yard and a 43-yard miss at the start of the fourth quarter against the Buccaneers that would have extended a four-point Giants’ lead to seven.
Ten kicks is a small sample size — 21 kickers in the NFL have attempted more field goals this season. Still, 70 percent accuracy will eventually get a placekicker run out of the league.
Also, the Giants are 30th in the league in touchback percentage on kickoffs at only 44.44 percent. A big leg for kickoffs was supposed to be one of the reasons the Giants kept Rosas instead of veteran Mike Nugent, and so far it doesn’t appear to be paying dividends.
The Giants are middle of the pack in kickoff coverage (23.1 yards allowed per return).
In the return game, Dwayne Harris suffered a season-ending foot injury before we really got a read on whether he could bounce back from a difficult 2016 season. Shane Vereen (19.0 yards per kickoff return) is less than desirable in that role. We haven’t yet seen enough of Ed Eagan returning punts to really make a good judgment.
Overall grade: “Wet Willie.” Special teams have not directly cost the Giants a game, but that unit has had a big hand in at least three of the team’s six losses.