Giants Position Preview: Special Teams

Posted Jun 23, 2016's Dan Salomone examines the Giants' depth in all phases of special teams play:
The Giants return the core of their special teams in 2016 after a record-setting season for the outfit.

From Josh Brown turning in one of the top-five scoring campaigns in team history to Dwayne Harris doing something no other Giant had done since 1955, there’s no overlooking the third phase of the game heading into 2016.


Wrapping up our position preview series on, today we look at the special teams:


After playing in the Pro Bowl for the first time in his 13-year career, kicker Josh Brown re-signed with the Giants for a 14th NFL season and his fourth with the team. Last season, Brown made 30 of his 32 attempts and scored a career-high 134 points, the fourth-highest total in franchise history. His 77 field goals with the Giants are tied with Raul Allegre for fifth on the team’s all-time kicking list. His 350 points are good for ninth all-time, in between running back Brandon Jacobs (386) and wide receiver Amani Toomer (348). The Giants also signed Tom Obarski to a reserve/future contract in January. Obarski played collegiately at Concordia-St. Paul (2011-14) in Minnesota and spent last summer with the Cincinnati Bengals.

“I don’t know if [Brown] has reinvented himself,” special teams coordinator Tom Quinn said. “I think he has put together a solid couple of years and is just continuing to grow. He has done a good job with nutrition and training and that has helped him extend his career.”


Nine days before the Giants kicked off the 2015 campaign, they released veteran punter Steve Weatherford and acquired Brad Wing from the Pittsburgh Steelers in exchange for a conditional seventh-round draft choice. The lefty from Australia went on to enjoy a career year, averaging 44.5 yards per punt with 33 inside the 20 (fifth in the NFL).


“He is better directionally than he was,” Quinn said. “He is doing more things with the ball coming off of his foot, so I have been very pleased with what he has done this spring, he has been very solid.”

A four-core special teamer who plays on the punt, punt return, kickoff and kickoff return teams, Dwayne Harris became the first Giant to have a punt return TD and kickoff return TD in the same season since Jimmy Patton in 1955. Additionally, Harris is the only player in franchise history to score on a pass, kickoff, and punt in the same season. And that was only Year 1 with the team.


The former Cowboy is back as the primary man, while Shane Vereen (14 kickoff returns in 2015) and Odell Beckham Jr. (two punt returns in 2015) can also contribute when needed. Meanwhile, rookies are always asked to contribute on special teams, and wide receiver Sterling Shepard has experience returning punts and did so at times throughout spring practices. The second-round pick returned 30 punts at Oklahoma, averaging 7.3 yards per attempt with a long of 27 yards.


Long snapper Zak DeOssie and Eli Manning are the only two remaining players from both the Super Bowl XLII and XLVI championship teams. DeOssie, who has been elected the Giants’ special teams captain for the last five seasons, re-signed with the team in February after finishing the final month of last season on injured reserve due to wrist surgery. It ended a streak of 149 consecutive regular-season and postseason games for the 2007 fourth-round draft choice out of Brown University. He is joined by fellow long snapper and Ivy Leaguer Tyler Ott, a Harvard man.

“It is a smart room now,” Quinn said. “It is a smart room. We have some state school guys that can represent, but they are Ivy League football players -- I didn’t say that.”


At the NFL Annual Meeting in March, nine playing rules changes were approved, including moving the spot of a touchback resulting from a free kick to the 25-yard line instead of the 20. The debate around the league is whether the change will result in more “mortar” kicks outside the hash. But then there would be a greater risk of kicking it out of bounds, which is a penalty.


“You definitely don’t want it out of bounds, and I think it’d just be more directional kickoffs with hang,” Quinn said. “Not as much the mortar, the mortar usually comes in around the 20, 15 yard line. You want to get this thing right on the goal line so they’ve got to make a decision. If you can get great hang time and you’ve got the location that you want, then you could have good coverage.”

Added Quinn: “That will be an interesting one with the new rule with the touchback coming out to the 25. I’m sure we are all going to research and see. Obviously there [are] two schools of thought, one you bang it out and give them the ball at the 25 and the other one is you hang it up somewhere around the goal line with great hang time and location and you cover it and hope to gain --- tackle them inside the 20 or at the 20, so it is a five-yard swing there.”