The New York Giants haven’t had a kickoff returned for a touchdown since 2007 and haven’t had a punt returned for a touchdown since 2009. The return game has been something of a problem for the Giants in recent years. In fact, Domenik Hixon was the last Giants to perform both of those feats.
Hixon, however, has missed the majority of last season after injuring his ACL on a touchdown catch against the St. Louis Rams. He missed all of 2010 with another ACL injury. Despite those injuries, the Giants are counting on Hixon making a complete comeback and are hopeful he will be able to compete for the kick return job and possibly the punt return job, even if they are secretly rooting for someone else to win it to save Hixon’s knees.
However, given his injury history, it is likely that Hixon might have lost some of the explosiveness that he once possessed. It is also possible that the Giants could see someone like Jerrel Jernigan, Da’Rel Scott, or perhaps Rueben Randle win the job outright.
The Giants drafted Jernigan with the hopes that he would be able to perform those duties last season but he had trouble holding onto the football and trouble finding the holes he was supposed to run through. Maybe he has made the necessary improvements. The Giants hope he has. After all, they did use a third round draft pick on the 5-8 speedster from Troy University.
Jernigan winning the job is probably the ideal scenario for the Giants. They want Hixon to battle Randle, Ramses Barden, and Jernigan for the third receiver spot and Hixon’s knees have to be a concern. I am sure the Giants don’t want Hixon to put the extra wear and tear after having two surgeries in two years to replace two different ACL’s.
Jernigan did a very good job returning kicks at Troy. He returned 67 kicks for 1,580 yards (23.4 avg) and 1 TD. He also returned 29 punts for 372 yards (12.8 avg) and 1 TD. Last season, the Giants best returner was Devin Thomas but he left as a free agent, as did leading punt returner Aaron Ross. Da’Rel Scott returned 14 kicks for 341 yards and broke loose for a 38 yard return. We have seen from his game tape last preseason that the explosive ability is there and it might translate to returning kickoffs. Jernigan, on the other hand, returned 8 kickoffs for 186 yards but never was able to seize the job.
The Giants are going to need Jernigan or Scott to step up and take the reigns as the return man. It seems almost every year the Giants are sent looking for someone to go and return kicks consistently. They need either Jernigan or Scott to be that guy or else they could be forced to mix and match once again.