Over his years, Michael Clayton has seen a lot of different body types back to return kicks. With a change looming, the Giants depth chart at that position seems to have them all.
There's Devin Thomas, who is the tallest and has been the primary returner so far this season. There's Da'Rel Scott, the speedster. There's Jerrel Jernigan, the small, shifty one. And then there's D.J. Ware, the powerful, 225-pound back.
But it all comes down to a mindset, says Clayton.
"Kickoff return is one of those attitude positions," the eight-year vet professed. "You have some quick guys who can get around the edge, you have some physical guys who are smashing their thing up the middle, but I think the most important thing is the guy has no fear and just hits the hole running, have faith in the blockers."
Speaking of blocks, who remembers Clayton’s that sprung Thomas’ 73-yarder against the Bears in the preseason?
However, there's a mix coming in return duties. With Thomas taking 21 of the 24 returns thus far, the return outfit ranks 23rd in the NFL with an average of 22.3 yards and a long of 40. Thomas, who was replaced by Jernigan after muffing a kick in New England, and Scott may get a shot.
And that has Clayton excited.
"Da'Rel obviously brings a lot of speed. Guys have seen him in the open field," Clayton said. "So if we get an opportunity to get him in the open field, we feel like he can go the distance. So it's pretty exciting, get everybody revved up, because of the opportunity we have. We've seen him in the open field. So our best thing is to try to get him in the open field and do his thing."
On the flip side, this week presents a tough challenge against a strong 49ers special teams unit. Ted Ginn, who returned both a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns in the opener against Seattle, leads the third-ranked kick return team (28.8 AVG) while kicker David Akers has 24 touchbacks.
"It's just going to be attitude," Clayton said. "Everybody rallying to the ball, straining their gut to get to the football. When you have guys like that who are seeking to see the open field, you've got to take your shots at those guys. You can't have just one guy taking a shot. You've got to have everybody who rallies to the football to take a shot going full speed because the minute that you hesitate, quick guys like that can get around the edge. So it's going to be an attitude thing for us. Believe that we're going to bring it."
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