Let the battle for the punting job begin!
Asked about the duel between incumbent Matt Dodge and free agent acquisition Steve Weatherford earlier this week, Tom Coughlin said it had not really heated up yet. Special teams coach Tom Quinn said the start of the preseason games will turn the burner on the race.
“In games, you have to deal with covering, location, what’s the hang time, so that’s going to be the big telltale sign for those two to separate from each other,” Quinn said.
Coughlin said both men will have a chance to punt against the Panthers (assuming, of course, that the Giants offense can be stopped!).
Dodge, of course, has been brilliant at times but a nightmare at some inopportune moments throughout his brief career with the Giants. We won’t mention any names, but, well, DeSean Jackson. Enough said.
Dodge had a terrible practice early in camp too, hearing it from the fans as he struggled to kick the ball into the wind to the point where the team had to switch directions on the field just to allow him to reach the return man.
But Quinn thinks Dodge is responding to the Weatherford challenge.
“The thing I’d like to say about Matt is that once Steve started punting, he’s become more consistent,” Quinn said. “He had a rocky day the third day, but since then he’s been more consistent … He’s always had a good attitude; it’s just being consistent and doing it on the big stage. We saw practice consistency. We have to see it in the game. That’s where it counts.
“He knew we were bringing someone in all along,” Quinn added on Dodge. “He knew it’d be competition. He knows what the situation is. He knows how good he can be. He’s just got to do it. That’s what we kind of told him. It’s in your hands, so go ahead and run with it.”
Hopefully they didn’t say the same thing to Weatherford, because he’d be likely to go ahead and literally run with it. Remember, he was the Jets punter last year who audibled to a fake on fourth-and-forever and came up a yard short.
Dodge also brings another skill to the Giants. He’s been working on kickoffs lately. Quinn said it’s mostly to help Lawrence Tynes, who has a sore quad, but Dodge did do that job in college and with kickoffs now from the 35 he has a strong enough leg to put the ball into the end zone on a consistent basis. Of course, the words “consistent basis” are never that easy when Dodge is involved in anything.
In practice earlier this week, Dodge yanked a few kickoffs to the left and screwed up the drill for the entire team. Normally when a kickoff is long or off target Charles Way hands an extra football to the return man and he come out of the end zone. But because of all the inexperienced players on special teams and a lack of OTAs and minicamps, when Dodge shanked his kicks the coverage went awry.
“We have these young guys who are so eager to cover that they just start chasing the ball so we had three guys going this way and five guys going this way,” Quinn said. “He’s got a strong enough leg. Control is an issue.”