There is only one position on the Giants roster this training camp where one player stands alone on the depth chart, not facing competition or scrutiny.
It’s Brad Wing’s.
The punter who signed a three-year extension just prior to the start of camp is the only one of his kind here, and not only is he enjoying the security of it, but also he believes it will make him better.
“This is the first time I’m the only punter on the roster,” Wing told Newsday, adding that in his rookie camp in Pittsburgh in 2014 he was the only punter actually there because veteran Adam Podlesh was dealing with a family health situation). “It’s good to be around a staff that has confidence and trust in you and believes in you. I think it helps you take your game to the next level.”
Special teams coordinator Tom Quinn said in the spring he has seen that growth.
“He’s better directionally than he was,” Quinn said. “He is doing more things with the ball coming off of his foot, so I have been very pleased with what he has done this spring. He has been very solid.”
Any danger of being overworked as the lone punter?
“It is always a concern,” Quinn said, noting the team uses machines to throw footballs through the air and mimic punts in many special teams drills. “That’s one of the biggest things we look at when developing the installation schedule is making sure that we are not kicking too many days in a row and they have enough days off. We have always been pretty happy with the results that we have gotten. Those guys have stayed fresh until the end of the year and that is important.”
“Coach Quinn has been around long enough, he knows all the tricks of the trade as far as over-working goes,” Wing said.
Wing added that the benefits of flying solo outweigh the risks.
“It gives you better peace of mind, it allows you to focus more on what you are doing and how to improve your game rather than competing with somebody else for a job,” he said. “It lets you focus on your game and not worry about anything else. It can obviously be a very stressful job, a very high demand, so to be able to have a bit of confidence and a bit of belief in you from the guys above helps.”
It’s also a rarity in the NFL, where redundancy is the norm in training camp. The Giants even have two long-snappers in camp this season. They have two kickers even though they re-signed Josh Brown in the offseason. Even Eli Manning has a pair of understudies. They may not be competing with him for the starting job, but they’re here.
Not so for the punter position, which is going with a single Wing formation this camp.
“It’s the first time since college that I’m around the coaches and I understand fully how they feel about me,” Wing said. “Up until then it’s a guessing game. And even now you’re always trying to improve, always trying to earn a new level of respect from the coaches. Nothing has really changed as far as my mindset goes. I guess the only that that’s changed is the situation.”
More fakes in the future?
Wing does more than just punt. He’s also the holder on field goals and extra points. That makes him the quarterback on fakes, which the Giants have shown a few times this camp. Whether or not the Giants actually use those plays in the season remains to be seen, but it’s certainly planting a seed in the minds of opponents. Under Tom Coughlin, the chances of the Giants running a fake punt or field goal were almost zero.
“I don’t think anyone knows what kind of head coach Ben [McAdoo] will be, so we’re all just waiting to see,” Wing said. “If he does call a fake, it’s our job to execute that. This time of the year is when we have to instill the confidence in him and the trust in him so he feels comfortable calling those types of things.