In UltimateNYG's weekly Game Rewind segment, we have been focusing on one side of the ball, either offense or defense. Today we will change things up and focus on special teams.
Prior to the game, Seattle's Leon Washington was ranked 3rd in kick off return yards with an average of 27.6 yards per return along with 2 touchdowns. By the way, guess who is dead last in this category? Yes, the Gmen are 29th in punt return average.
On the opening kick off, the Giants lined up in a bunch formation. This formation is designed to confuse the kick off return unit and inhibits their ability to execute their blocking schemes effectively. More importantly, it also keeps the kick off return team from targeting JPP in their blocking schemes. The front formation was filled by Tollefson, Dillard, JPP and Blackburn. Ross, Beckum, Grant, and Goff comprised of players on the back line. And Jackson and Calhoun were the gunners. With the wind at his back, Tynes executed a boot kick which landed on the 11. Subsequently, Washington returned it to the 16 yard line. JPP was the first defender to reach Washington but the play was finished off by Blackburn and Dillard. Overall it was a very solid start. By executing well, Washington was limited to well under his average. (Just curious, but do you suppose the Giants chose to kick off with the wind versus receiving?)
After the Giants scored a touchdown to go up 7-0, they were once again lined up in a bunch formation on the ensuing kickoff. This time Tynes kicked high and deep to the goal line. Blackburn made a diving tackle to trip up Washington. As Blackburn made his tackle, JPP was being double teamed directly in front of a diving Blackburn. It is important to note just how big a force JPP is on special teams.
On the third kickoff , the Giants were lined up in a bunch formation. Another pop-up boot kick by Tynes landed on the 21 yard line. Washington, however, fielded this on a hop. Tollefson is the first defender to lay a hand on him which contained him inside. This allows Beckum to tackle helmet first to force a fumble. Alertly, Goff picks it up and returns it to the 3 yard line. Best play of the year for the Special Teams unit bar none.
The next kickoff was not as well executed. Once again the Giants were lined up in a bunch formation. Tynes' hit a line drive kick which landed on the 30 yard line. Washington fielded it at full speed. As Washington scuttled forward , the first defender Dillard whiffed badly. Hopefully, a lesson learned for Dillard. As he appeared to be running a little too out of control to make a clean tackle. Calhoun hustled in order to drag Washington down at the NYG 30 yard line. The coaching staff made an adjustment after this not to allow Washington runbacks on kick offs. Washington only touched the ball on 1 of the following 3 kickoffs, as all 3 were high and short. The coaching staff appeared willing to sacrifice field position to guard against the homerun hitting Washington. Not until the 4th quarter with the wind at their back did Tynes execute a kick inside the 30 yard line against Seattle.
Now let’s look at the performance of Blackmon and the return unit. They only had 1 kickoff return with Blackmon returning for 19 yards from the goal line to open up the 2nd half. On this kick off Seattle was hit with a face mack on Blackmon for an additional 15 yards. Barden made a horrible effort in blocking the gunner, which forced Blackmon inside into 3 defenders. We have to guess this is another reason why we don’t see Barden out there as much and on the inactive list more.
It appeared Blackmon was not down on his first punt return of 4 yards. Otherwise, this would have been a big gain. Just curious why Fox did not show a replay of this? Tollefson missed his block at the line of scrimmage which allowed #54 to be the first to Blackmon. Blackmon was tripped up but his knees clearly were not down on the replay. The only plausible call by the refs must have been that his elbow was down. After looking at the replay in slow motion, it was inconclusive.. The following 2 returns of note were near muffs, with Blackmon having to dive for a fair catch and scramble for a 3 yard return respectively. This was, at best, terrible rust. Hopefully this can be cleaned up with more repetition.
Finally, what we have not witnessed thus far this season (since Hixon was back fielding punts for the Gmen) is a legitimate punt returner. In the 3rd quarter, Blackmon fielded a long high punt on his own 26 yard line and made a cut back to his left for a 22 yard return. Both Ross and Dillard made well-executed blocks on the left side of the field to open it up for a healthy return by Blackmon.
In the end Blackmon had 3 punts for a 9.7 yard average versus Reynaud’s season average of 5.9 yards. Just wondering, but who believes that If Blackmon cleans up his judgement on fielding punts and demonstrates consistency that Reynaud will hit waivers?
The dangerous Leon Washington ended the game with a 22 yard average for kick off returns versus his season average of 27.6. The coaching staff, in addition to the players execution, deserved high marks for preparation in game planning. The quest for improvement each week is critical. Blackmon is an improvement over Reynaud. This will lower the margin of error for opponents in a very mediocre league.