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Giants coach Joe Judge loves talking special teams

Graham Gano #9 of the Carolina Panthers in

Graham Gano #9 of the Carolina Panthers in action against Washington at FedExField on October 14, 2018 in Landover, Maryland.  Credit: Getty Images/Patrick Smith

Here’s another way Joe Judge is like Bill Belichick: If you ask him a special teams question, be ready for a long answer.

That happened on Wednesday during Judge’s virtual press conference after the Giants had a light practice. The first time was when he was asked about newly signed kicker Graham Gano, who was on the field with the team after clearing the COVID-19 protocols and – more importantly given he has been injured since December 2018 – his physical.

“We’ve known about Graham for a long time,” Judge said. “Obviously T-Mac and Dave [special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey and general manager Dave Gettleman] have experience with him personally back in Carolina, and that goes a long way. He’s someone who wasn’t available early on in this process and when he became available we obviously had him on our radar. It was fortunate it worked out the way it has. He’s a competitive guy, he’s a talented guy, he obviously missed a little bit of time due to injury but I’m anxious to get him on the field and see him get going. He is a big-leg guy who has experience. He hits a consistent straight-line ball with solid flight, the ball gets good lift. He has made improvements throughout his career. I think with any specialist – kicker, punter, snapper – you really see their best ball as they get toward their 30s. They’ve had their time to develop, they understand the league, they really understand how their body works and how to structure for the duration of the season. And they understand situationally how they have to stay fresh and in the moment. Young guys may have a little more pop in their leg at times, young guys may have a little more raw ability, but when it comes to NFL specialists they really start peaking at right around 30. That’s why a lot of them can go and play even into their early 40s.”

Judge came up through the coaching ranks as a special teams coach, so of course he has an appreciation and a deep understanding of what he wants in a kicker. His answer also sheds some light on why the Giants felt confident moving on from talented 25-year-old Pro Bowler Aldrick Rosas and pursuing more veteran options, first with Chandler Cantazaro, 29, and now with 33-year-old Gano (although Rosas’ legal issues from a hit-and-run in California during the offseason certainly impacted that decision as well).

As for that left leg injury that sidelined Gano for more than a full season, Judge was less chatty.

“Obviously our doctors believe he is healthy enough that we went through with it,” he said, “so I’m confident in their knowledge and ability.”

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