There is so much going on with the New York Giants — front office moves, a defensive coordinator search, the signing of quarterback Davis Webb — that the Monday signing of punter Jamie Gillan got short shrift in the day’s news cycle.
So, let’s talk more about what the Giants’ signing of the ‘Scottish Hammer’ might mean in 2022.
First, it has to be taken as a sign — maybe even a big, flashing neon sign — that the Giants’ new regime intends to move on from punter Riley Dixon.
That’s not exactly ground breaking news. After an excellent first couple of seasons with the Giants, Dixon has been inconsistent the past two seasons. The Giants are cap-strapped, new general manager Joe Schoen has expressed a desire to slash $40 million in cap space for the upcoming season.
Cutting Dixon, taking the $2.8 million in cap savings that would come that move, then signing a minimum-salaried punter (futures contracts pay $705k), saves roughly $2.1 million against the 2022 cap.
If the Giants go with the 24-year-old Gillan over Dixon as their punter, does that improve their performance? Maybe. Maybe not. It would not have in 2021.
Gillan, by EPA (Expected Points Added) per punt, was worse than Dixon last season.
[By the way, as an aside, I discovered in my research for this post that there is a Twitter account (@ThePuntRunts) devoted exclusively to punters. Who knew? Hey, punters are people, too.]
After punting for the Browns in 2019 and 2020, the left-footed 24-year-old Gillan saw his 2021 season get off to a rough start with this costly gaffe:
Browns punt blocking on this play was excellent. He could have got that punt off still. Jamie Gillan just panicked.pic.twitter.com/G87L5cUdjZ— Tim x opTIMus (@timschuerger) September 12, 2021
Things didn’t get better. He averaged a career-low 43.9 yards per punt. He ended up on the Reserve/COVID-19 list after 12 games. When he came off the list, Dustin Colquitt had taken his job, he got cut and finished the season the Buffalo Bills practice squad.
Figuring out whether Gillan or Dixon is the better punter is kind of like splitting hairs.
Gillan averages 44.9 yards per punt over three seasons, Dixon averages 45.3 over six years. Gillan’s 2021 percentage of punts downed inside the 20 (35.7) was slightly better than Dixon’s 32.4. In 2020, Dixon was way better in that area — 43.1 percent to 29.4. In 2021, only 2.4 percent of Gillan’s punts went for touchbacks, while 8.1 percent of Dixon’s did. In 2020, Gillan was at 5.2 percent to Dixon’s 9.2.
Both guys appear to be adequate NFL punters.
There is, of course, no guarantee that Gillan will be the Giants’ punter even if they do move on from Dixon. At least, though, it looks like the Giants don’t intend to pay a premium for average work.
That would be a step in the right direction.