The 2013 season was a struggle for the New York Giants in virtually every aspect of the game. One area where struggles persisted more often than not was on special teams — specifically the kick and punt return games. GM Jerry Reese decided changes needed to be made, and he has attacked the return games head on in free agency.
Last season the Giants’ struggles in the return game could be attributed to the injury David Wilson suffered to his neck. In 2012, his rookie season, Wilson was electric in the kick return game, averaging 26.9 yards per return, sixth in the NFL. He also returned one for a touchdown, creating a buzz in the crowd whenever he stepped on the field.
But when Wilson had his role in the offense expanded and subsequently was injured, the Giants had no viable replacements on the roster. The result was a paltry 21.2 yards per kick return, finishing 27th in the NFL. This season, the kick return game will be in good hands even if Wilson is unable to return from his neck injury.
Quintin Demps, who played with the Kansas City Chiefs last season, was signed on Sunday. He brings with him the third-most kick return yards in 2013 with 992 yards and 30.1 yards per return. Demps returned one for a touchdown and will add a much needed punch to the kick return unit. Unfortunately Demps does not help out in the punt return game.
In steps Trindon Holliday. Monday the Giants signed Holliday, formerly of the AFC Champion Denver Broncos. Holliday, who stands at only 5-foot-5 and 170-pounds, makes up for his small stature with blazing speed. The dynamic return man causes havoc in the punt return game.
The Giants didn’t impress last season returning punts, averaging only 7.2 yards per return, 26th in the NFL. Rueben Randle was a bright spot, averaging 8.2 yards per return. That ranked him right behind the diminutive Holliday, who averaged 8.5. Even with the numbers being so close, Holliday is an upgrade for the Giants. Randle needs to concentrate on improving as a wide receiver and will more than likely be relinquishing his return duties. Holliday, on the other hand, is being brought in with one job in mind — jump-start the punt return game.
Holliday is multi-faceted in the return game and doesn’t get much better as a second option in the kick return game. Holliday was not too far behind Demps in the kick return department, finishing with 775 yards and 27.7 yards per return. Holliday will not provide much help offensively as a wide receiver, but his ability to return both kicks and punts is more than enough to warrant a roster spot.
Special teams are overlooked by many people, but they are an imperative part of the game. Reese knows this and made sure to add options to help the team improve. The Giants came into free agency with plenty of holes to fill, but Reese has done an outstanding job thus far plugging some of them. It can be argued Reese and the Giants are having the best free agency period of any team in the NFL and now boast the best return man tandem in the league.