*Punter Riley Dixon was acquired via trade this week from the Denver Broncos: *
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – When the Denver Broncos signed punter Marquette King on April 5, Riley Dixon knew his time in the Mile High City had come to an end. King, after all, was acquired to take the position Dixon had filled the previous two seasons.
"Marquette is actually a pretty good friend of mine, and I was obviously happy for him to land a job," Dixon said today. "But at the same time, I lose my job. That's the way the business goes, and you just have to take it for how it is and look forward to the next opportunity."
Dixon didn't have to wait long for his. Yesterday, he was acquired in a trade by the Giants, who sent a conditional 2019 seventh-round draft choice to Denver. For Dixon, the negative of being replaced in Denver became an overwhelmingly positive development. He grew up in Sylvan Beach, a small town near Syracuse, and played collegiate football at Syracuse University.
"It's a blessing," Dixon said. "I'm much closer to home. Being a New York guy myself it just feels great to be back near my home state, and playing for the home team.
"(His family members) are over the moon. My mom is so happy that I'm close to home, my dad is so happy, and my whole family will be able to make a lot more games and just having an East Coast schedule helps so much."
Dixon played in the Carrier Dome and then in Denver's thin air, but is confident he'll easily adjust to the more challenging conditions in MetLife Stadium.
"I grew up kicking outside of Manley Fieldhouse over there in Syracuse with the snow and the wind, and that's what I'm used to," he said. "I mean, yeah, I played in Denver, but we played eight games on the road as well, so this is just another day at work."
Dixon made the Syracuse football team as a walk-on, and was awarded a scholarship after his redshirt sophomore season.
"I actually never thought I was going to go to Syracuse," he said. "I didn't start punting until really my senior year of high school. I was a quarterback and I kicked field goals a little bit and being so late in the recruiting process I was expecting to go Division 3 or Division 2. Syracuse wasn't really on the radar until they asked me to walk at the 11th hour.
"I loved every part of being at Syracuse. For one, being close to home. I think Syracuse made me the punter that I am. Coming in as a walk on and having to earn the position and having to earn a scholarship and having to earn my way really on the team. I think that made me the athlete, the person and the punter that I am today."
Dixon was a seventh-round draft choice by the Broncos in 2016. In two seasons in Denver, he had a 45.7-yard gross average and a 40.8-yard net average on 162 punts. He played 51 balls inside the 20-yard line. Dixon's longest punt traveled 68 yards.
Dixon will look to replace Brad Wing, who was released last month after three seasons with the Giants.
Dixon arrived yesterday, and the Giants began their three-day voluntary minicamp today.
"I'm just thrown right into the fire, which is good," he said. "Punting is what I love to do, so I'd rather get right to it than sit around and wait."
*Olivier Vernon said his biggest adjustment playing in the Giants' new 3-4 defense is not where he lines up during practice, but where he sits before and after the workout. For the first time in his six-year career, he is meeting with the linebackers, and not the defensive line.
"Sometimes they'll say, 'D-line over here,' and I'll stop for a second," Vernon said. "I don't go there anymore.
"That's one thing I've got to get adjusted to a little bit. Right now, in a different room. Just trying to digest everything."
Vernon, entering his third season with the Giants, said standing up as a linebacker is not a radical change for him.
"It's nothing really different for me, I've done that in the past," he said. "Right now, it's just different play calls, different terminology. So that's basically it. I stood up and was in a three-point when I was here and when I was in Miami (where he played his first four NFL seasons) I stood up.
"Right now is about digesting the playbook, getting everything in right now and everything else is going to play in."
Defensive coordinator James Bettcher said he expects to use Vernon similarly to how he deployed Chandler Jones with the Arizona Cardinals. Jones led the NFL with 17.0 sacks in 2017.
"He was still down there rushing and getting after the quarterback and when it came down to the schemes and stuff like that, using him and dropping him and stuff like that," Vernon said. "So we've just got to see."