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Nothing special about Giants special teams

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)

One game into the season and New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin isn't happy with his special teams.

The Giants were lucky they didn't lose the season opener the way the unit played against the Carolina Panthers.

Rookie Matt Dodge had a 16.0 net average on three punts, including one that was blocked for a safety in the fourth quarter.

The punt coverage team finished 30th of 32 teams in the opening week, allowing Carolina 19 yards a return. The kickoff return coverage was 24th, allowing an average of 24.6 yards.

The Giants made little happen on their returns, averaging 13.4 yards on kickoff returns (31st overall) and 6.8 yards on punt returns (17th).

''Our special teams play really needs to be upgraded all around,'' Coughlin said.

The big concern has to be Dodge, the seventh-round draft pick who was handed the punting job after Jeff Feagles retired in the offseason, ending a 22-year career.

Dodge has a powerful leg that launched some 70-yard punts in training camp. However, his punting can drive a coach crazy. He will boom one with great hang time on one kick and then turn around and hit a low line-drive that can easily be returned.

Dodge's first two punts on Sunday were low screamers that gave the Panthers big returns and good field position.

''We need to see the consistency,'' Coughlin said. ''You know, there was a 28-yard return in there. I mean, the line drive punt that doesn't go very far, it looks like we're all clumped in there together where no one really even has a chance to disperse the coverage.''

Dodge is frustrated. He knows he has the leg and the talent. However, the Giants want him to develop his directional punting, and putting it all together has been a problem so far.

''Obviously, I have things to work on,'' Dodge said. ''I know I can do it. I have done it, and I have gotten better and better in practice. I just have to keep working.''

Special teams captain Chase Blackburn said a major problem Sunday was that some players did not go all out, almost as if they did not realize the importance of their jobs.

''People have to buy into these roles,'' said Blackburn, who sprained his right knee for the second time in the past month. ''And if you're not a starter on the team, that's your role. So that's the thing we've got to buy into, and everyone go out there with the same mentality and we'll get things done.''

Blackburn said special teams coach Tom Quinn did not scream at the unit, although he admitted the coach had every right to do that. Instead, he spent Monday talking to the players and teaching.

The blocked punt, for example, was simply a player letting a Panther go free.

''Everything is correctable,'' Blackburn said. ''That's the one thing about it like the blocked punt is correctable, completely correctable. Just protection first. Get in our lanes.''

Blackburn said he made a mistake on one kickoff coverage when he went to help rookie Jason Pierre-Paul, who was being double-teamed. That left his land open and it cost the Giants yards.

''I recognized it right away,'' Blackburn said. ''I told Jason afterward, 'Look, you're on your own on double teams from now on because I can't get over to you. I need to get back in my lane.' And he didn't need it. He really didn't.''

Backup linebacker Bryan Kehl said the special teams unit has to play with more abandon.

''As a kickoff unit, we need to come down with our hair on fire a little more and have a little more lane discipline to clear that up,'' Kehl said.

The punt coverage suffered because Dodge did not have any hang time.

''If the guy is catching it and the coverage is 20 yards away, any returner worth his salt is going to get some yards off of that,'' Kehl said. ''That's part of it, but we have to get down there and tackle.''

However, Kehl won't be part of the solution when the Giants (1-0) play Peyton Manning and the Colts (0-1) in Indianapolis on Sunday night. He was waived Tuesday afternoon when tight end Bear Pascoe was signed to the active roster. He was on the practice squad the first week of the season.

Tagged: Giants, Chase Blackburn, Bryan Kehl, Matt Dodge

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