Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Giants: Special Teams

Special teams were not too pretty against the Jets. Tynes kickoffs were OK, but the coverage was not sharp. It seemed like the Jets got out past the 30 every time and the Giants had no space and rarely got past the 20. The difference of 15 or 20 yards on every kickoff really adds up in a game, gives a significant field position disadvantage to the team that is short in each game and surely makes a difference over the course of a season. Football is all about field position. The reason turnovers are so critical is because they flip the field position, giving the other team the ball without realizing the net field position benefit that a punt would have given if your offense had simply failed to get a first down. That's also why not all turnovers are equal. An interception and immediate tackle on a long 50 yard pass is not good, because it takes away a possession and an opportunity for your team to score. But at least it pushes the opposing offense down the field. Conversely, a fumble/interception at the end of a short play, and/or if followed by a long return by the defense really hurts the field position and affects the game.

Speaking of punting - I am afraid that Reese and the front office have left the Giants mortally weakened at the punter position. Feagles did the right thing by informing the Giants before the draft that he was retiring (see Brett Favre) and the Giants could at least try to get a new punter. But the kid who Reese drafted looked horrible and apparently has not had a good camp. His hang time is not good and his kicks are not very deep. If you accept my theory that field position is everything in football, then punting is very important and the rookie punter Dodge is a real liability. If he doesn't come around by the end of training camp, I will be surprised if the Giants go into the season with him as the punter; they will pick someone up who gets cut by another team after camp.

When Coughlin replaced Fassel, I was impressed with how he immediately was able to fix the special teams, something Fassel was unable to do in all his time as Giants coach. The success of every unit on the football team is a blend of athletic talent in the players with schemes and strategy of the coaches. Relying on the traditional 80-20 split theory - let's say the success of the offensive and defensive units is a blend of 80% players contributions and 20% from the coaches. I contend that with Special Teams, the blend is almost reversed. While of course you need good athletes, it is surely true that every NFL team has a sufficient number of capable athletes to make a good showing on ST. Maybe the Giants are not as good athletically as we thought, but perhaps the weakness of the ST is another indication that Coughlin and his coaches do not have as good a grasp on football in the '10 decade as they should have.

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