Can Quinn's Special Duo Keep Kicking?

Among Jerry Reese's first orders of business this offseason was making sure that his kicker and punter didn't go anywhere.

The Giants had just won the Super Bowl and Lawrence Tynes and Jeff Feagles were a big reason why. Feagles, now 42 years old, was considering hanging up the spikes once and for all. However, he decided that he didn't want to walk away just yet and decided to return. As for Tynes, yes everyone will always remember his late one-for-three effort in Green Bay, but it was the ‘one' that sent the Giants to the Super Bowl. So the Giants moved swiftly in getting Tynes to agree to a five-year contract that will keep him with the Giants basically as long as they'd like him around. Some teams can be accused of overlooking special teams; Tom Coughlin's Giants are certainly not among them.

How many happy returns?

After watching the Giants up in Albany one thing is certain: claiming Domenik Hixon off the waiver wire late last season was absolutely brilliant. Special teams aside, Hixon is a solid receiver with good size (6-2, 182) and speed. He filled in more than admirably on the first team in Plaxico Burress' absence. But Hixon's biggest value comes as a kickoff returner, where he brought one to the house against the mighty Patriots in the regular-season finale that many credit with catapulting Big Blue to glory. He's the epitome of a north-south runner, who uses great cutting ability and another gear to get through creases. Hixon and Ahmad Bradshaw will likely handle the kickoff returns this season with guys like Derrick Ward and even Danny Ware available to help out there as well. The punt return duties are expected to remain in the capable hands of R.W. McQuarters, but Hixon is pushing him there as well. The one catch? McQuarters isn't a total lock to make the final roster. As a result, special teams coordinator Tom Quinn has been looking at othe r guys in that role as well, including Bradshaw and Sinorice Moss.

Who will fill in for DT?

It's almost certain that David Tyree will begin the season on the PUP list. That means he'd be sidelined up to six weeks, at which point the Giants would have to make a move to add him to the roster, place him on IR or let him go. As Tyree's Pro Bowl appearance from 2005 would indicate, it's going to take an awful lot for Coughlin to part with Tyree. However, in his absence the Giants need some youngsters to step up and make some downfield plays in kickoff and punt coverage. According to Quinn, two of his 2008 draft picks made hay in that department in Detroit.

"Terrell (Thomas) did an excellent job as a gunner on the punt team," Quinn said. "So we're very pleased with that. Bryan Kehl also did a very good job on kickoff and kickoff return, so it's a good contribution from those two rookies.E2 Chase Blackburn returns as the Giants' best coverage man.

Will they be better in '08?

Even though the Giants were pretty good on ‘teams' last season, there's no reason to think they won't continue to improve. They're pretty much fine at kicker and punter, injuries notwithstanding, and they've taken great pains to improve their return and coverage games. As good as Hixon is on kickoff returns, he can also get downfield and cover kicks. And it appears at this point that the Giants are going to once again utilize the snapping duo of Jay Alford and Zak DeOssie, which worked out great last season. With the Giants commitment to special teams and their solid drafting to fortify the specialty units, there's no reason to think they won't be among the best in the NFL again in 2008.

Strength of unit: The versatility and depth of the units that Coughlin and Quinn have compiled is impressive. Not to mention the experience at both key kicking spots.

Weakness of unit: Hard to find a glaring weakness at this point but Tynes' current left knee injury isn't exactly ideal. Key additions: Hixon's addition late last season paid dividends and the drafting of players like Terrell Thomas and Bryan Kehl should help the coverage units.

Key losses: Gibril Wilson, who signed on with the Raiders this offseason, was always a solid special teams cover guy. Darkhorse: Danny Ware. Not many figured him to make the roster, but he's hoping to capture at least part of the kickoff return job and/or grab the final RB spot. He has looked good during camp, but there's only room for s o many backs. On the spot: Sinorice Moss, Zak DeOssie. These are two guys that could solidify their roster spots via their special teams ability.

Just fine: For all the grief Lawrence Tynes took – mostly for his two missed extra-points early last season – his 85.2 percent success rate (23-27) was among the game's best. The Giants would certainly take those exact same numbers again this year.

Threepeat: Chase Blackburn has led the Giants in special teams tackles each of the last three seasons. He had 17 in '07, tied Reggie Torbor with 14 in '06 and posted a whopping 22 in '05.


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