The Giants defense has been legendary and its offense has had notable names throughout the years. But special teams have always had held an interesting place in team history. Matt Bahr’s field goal in San Francisco sent the Giants to Super Bowl XXV and a pair of Lawrence Tynes field goals set up Super Showdowns with the Patriots. And there was Ron Dixon returning a kick for a touchdown to begin the 2000 playoffs against the Eagles.
There was also a failure to recover a Minnesota onside kick against the Vikings in the 1997 playoffs, Trey Junkin’s ill-fated snap in the 2002 playoffs and DeSean Jackson’s walk-off punt return damaging the Giants playoff hopes in 2010.
Special teams are only noticed in its biggest moments, and before the season starts, the staff has to juggle giving snaps to the main players as well as fill-ins while a special teams player might be practicing with another unit.
“It’s a delicate balance because the playtime is not equal, so a lot of the time the guys that have been primarily special teams guys the last two or three years, they’re getting more offensive and defensive snaps,” said Tom Quinn, the Giants special teams coordinator since 2007. “So you try to balance it out that way as well. But you’ve got to see the young guys, I mean there’s a nice group of young guys. The personnel guys did a great job with this class. From top to bottom, I think it’s pretty solid as far as the undrafted guys and the drafted guys, so we’re excited to see him play.”
Sterling Shepard, the Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver drafted in the second round, may be used on special teams. The young players have impressed Quinn. “All the rookies have done a good job mentally, number one,” Quinn said. “They’ve understood the fundamentals that we’re teaching, number two. So now we just have to see them do it against somebody else. Do the techniques hold up, does it hold up mentally when you’ve got somebody else in a different color jersey coming down at you. So that’s what is going to be the exciting thing to see on Friday night. He’s done a nice job; I think they’ve all done a nice job.”
Special teams coordinators may have the most work in development because there are few specialty players on the unit. “Most guys coming in are pretty much a blank canvas,” Quinn said. “They may do it early in their careers but very rarely do they play later in their careers, on special teams.
Alabama’s one team that jumps out to me that you see those guys playing special teams. A lot of teams don’t, so you just take it for what it’s worth and once they get here, they’ve got a nice skillset and try and utilize that skillset best you can.”