The New York Giants’ special teams have been a unit the team has prided themselves in ever since Thomas McGaughey took over as coordinator back in 2018.
The ‘teams’ as they are known, have been among the tops in the league, especially when it comes to kick and punt coverage. The return group was never outstanding, but were always respectable and rarely did they cough up the football and coat the team games.
This year, the returners have been less than palatable. Kickoff returns are basically non-existent if handled correctly but punt returns are still very much a thing and Giants are not faring very well.
The plan was to have rookie running back Eric Gray handle punt returns, which he did — sometimes. Gray was a disaster as have the players who have spelled him.
The Giants are averaging just 3.8 yards on punt returns and have fumbled — or muffed — four punts this season through seven games.
Gray was placed on injured reserve (IR) last week and the Giants will no longer have to worry about his ball security issues until next season, but who will handle the load the rest of the way this year?
Sterling Shepard was inserted in place of Gray last week but he had never returned a punt in his entire eight-year NFL career. He isn’t the guy.
The Giants signed veteran returner Gunner Olszewski to the practice squad this week and then added running backs Jashaun Corbin and Deon Jackson to the active roster.
“He’s typical Gunner,” McGaughey said of what he saw in Olszewski during his workout earlier this week. “The same thing you see on tape, he does a good job of tracking the ball and excellent punt catcher. Early in his career, he had a really, really, really good start. He does a great job of getting the ball vertical, so good player.”
Corbin has been in the Giants’ orbit for the past two years and was recently on the Carolina Panthers practice squad. He will get an opportunity to return as well.
“Jashaun did a great job when he was here,” said McGaughey. “It was tough, but he did a great job and I love the kid. He works his tail off, he plays hard, he’s physical and he’s a good man. He’s a great teammate, all the guys know they were super happy to get him back because he is such a good guy and a great teammate, but no, he did a really good job in the spring and last year as a young player. He’ll be fine.”