When things go right, the special teams coach is all but invisible on his media access day. But coordinator Tom Quinn was very much in demand Thursday, not just because the special teams had two major gaffes in Sunday's 38-31 loss to the Eagles, but because the punt coverage team has been seriously flawed all season.
The strange thing is, most of the members of the punt coverage unit are the same ones that appear on kickoff coverage. Yet, when you put the two groups next to each other, the kickoff group is doing so much better than the punt coverage.
"That’s the big question," Quinn said. "We talked about that today in the meeting because a couple of years ago we could cover punts, but we couldn’t cover kickoffs, so we kind of put the verbiage on how we cover kickoffs. We stole it from the punt, so now I’m like, what do we have to go back to using the verbiage on how we cover kickoffs?
"But it is the same guys. It’s a confidence factor. The kickoff team has a lot of confidence running down the field, so you show them anything and they try to defeat it and attack it. Punt team you get back on your heels a little bit because you haven’t had the success. We told them to just go fast and believe what you see and make it into a kickoff coverage if you can."
It hasn't worked so far. The punt coverage has given up returns at a whopping 14.7-yard margin, which includes touchdown returns from Dallas' Dez Bryant and, of course, Jackson. Nobody has returned one off the kickoff coverage, and that unit has limited returners to a respectable 19.9-yard average.
Some of it may have to do with the fact that Lawrence Tynes is knocking his kickoffs better than he ever has in his four years as a Giant. Though he only has six touchbacks this year, Tynes has placed his kickoffs well for the most part, with enough hangtime for the coverage to get downfield. Dodge has suffered a rocky rookie season, with more than one line drives like the one he sent Jackson's way in the final 14 seconds of last Sunday's game.
But despite Dodge's problems, someone still should have tackled Jackson as he scrambled to retrieve his fumble. Instead, Duke Calhoun missed him at the beginning of his return. No one was close to him as Jackson headed upfield. And Dodge, really, was the only one who had a shot at him before he broke into the clear for the miracle, game-winning touchdown. On tape, it appeared Dodge even touched Jackson as the returner flew past him.
"I don’t know. The kicks that we haven’t covered well, the three ones, we had guys in position, we just didn’t make the plays, so that comes down to me coaching them better, getting them better prepared technique-wise," Quinn said. "The Dez Bryant one, we had a guy there, the DeSean Jackson one we had one there, and then the one from Minnesota (Lorenzo Booker's 49-yard return), we’ll just put that one in that category too, we had multiple guys there."
Tom Coughlin said there would be no wholesale changes on the punt coverage team.
The ones on the team now are the ones who are going to have to fix the problem.
"There are a lot of reasons," Coughlin said. "But let’s just leave at that. We are not covering very well."