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Giants’ punter Riley Dixon a bright spot in a down season

Fourth-year punter is still learning and improving

New York Giants v New York Jets
Riley Dixon

The New York Giants are 2-8. If everyone on the roster was doing his job as well as punter Riley Dixon has this season, that wouldn’t be the case.

Dixon is averaging a career-best 46.5 yards per punt, and the Giants’ 41.8 yard net average matches what they did a season ago. Take away the one punt Dixon had blocked and that average is 42.8. Only 17 of Dixon’s 40 punts have been returnable.

Special teams captain Michael Thomas called Dixon “one of the best I’ve ever been around.”

“I’ve been around some pretty good punters, been on some pretty good punt coverage teams,” Thomas said. “To see him do it day in and day out at practice and then the way he’s executing this year on the field, hitting bombs and landing ‘em right out of bounds and stuff like that inside the 20. I think he’s playing at a Pro Bowl, All-Pro level. It makes our job easier to go cover those punts, man.

“We’re one of the top units in the league and it’s because of play from guys like Riley.”

Dixon, 26, is in his fourth season. He made the AP All-Rookie team with the Denver Broncos in 2016, but got traded to the Giants last season.

Dixon said this week that he is “Hitting the ball well. Just trying to put guys in position to win. Coverage guys are playing well and it’s good to see, good to see them succeed.”

Special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey said Dixon is “growing up in the game.”

“When you have these young players, there is a maturation process that they all have to go through — all of the great ones that I’ve ever been around, that have played double-digit years in this league. It’s just a process,” McGaughey said. “I think he’s on the other side of really feeling comfortable, trying to find his routine, knowing exactly what he wants to do on a daily basis, how he goes about handling his business, and I just think he’s growing up.

“He’s growing up in the game and he’s starting to figure out what works for him. Once that happens, once they figure out what works for them, they normally just take off.”

Dixon survived a brief preseason challenge when the Giants claimed former Oakland Raiders punter Johnny Townsend via waivers.

“That’s the nature of the business. I don’t take that personally or anything like that,” Dixon said. “It’s a business and that’s how the game goes. Doesn’t change anything whether it’s me vs. another punter or me vs. 10 guys, it’s always me vs. myself.”

He’s been winning that competition this season. Like McGaughey, Dixon believes experience is helping him.

“For me it’s a maturity process. I think just like anything time makes you learn the ins and outs of the game more and what’s required,” Dixon said. “I just think over time the game makes a lot more sense mentally. I just have a better understanding of my job.

“It’s just learning how to be effective. I’m only one guy, I’ve got 10 other guys out there covering. Just learning that it’s my job to put them in a position to win.”

If only everyone else was doing that as well as Dixon has this season.