Giants Explain Not Giving Veteran WR ‘More of a Look’ Returning Punts

Jamison Crowder

Getty The New York Giants explained why they didn't give an NFC award-winner "more of a look."

The New York Giants have struggled returning punts, but things might be different if Big Blue had given veteran return man Jamison Crowder “more of a look.”

Why Crowder didn’t get a longer look was a question put to special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey. He explained how getting rookie running back Eric Gray “comfortable” was more of a factor, per Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News.

Gray’s had issues fielding punts, issues compounded by Crowder thriving with his former team the Washington Commanders. Crowder is back with the Giants’ opponents in Week 7, fresh off being named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week. He returned a punt 61 yards during the Commanders’ 24-16 win over the Atlanta Falcons.

Crowder’s enduring ability to make big plays in football’s third phase could put the Giants at a disadvantage in a must-win NFC East clash. If Crowder makes an impact at MetLife Stadium, McGaughey and head coach Brian Daboll will face more questions about why they chose Gray instead.

Giants Missed a Trick With Jamison Crowder

The Giants long for the type of big play in the return game Crowder produced in Atlanta.

This game-changing runback positioned the Commanders to take a decisive lead. It’s also far from the only splash play Crowder has produced this season. As detailed, the 30-year-old “has eight punt returns for 114 yards (14.3 avg.) so far this season.”

Numbers like those make it tough to fathom why the Giants decided to cut the wide receiver in August. Granted, the depth chart was crowded at the position, thanks to the presence of Jalin Hyatt, Wan’Dale Robinson, Parris Campbell, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton and Isaiah Hodgins.

Yet, Crowder’s greater value to the Giants was always going to be on specials teams. McGaughey’s sputtering unit could use Crowder’s value now.

Eric Gray-Led Return Game Could Have Used Jamison Crowder

Contrast Crowder’s output this season with the Giants averaging a mere 4.7 yards per punt return, per Pro Football Reference. Gray hasn’t taken to the role, despite his obvious speed and moves.

Ball security has been an issue, like when the first-year back muffed this fair catch against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 4.

Gray was sent to the bench in favor of cornerback Adoree’ Jackson, but Daboll soon declared the Giants would stick with the rookie moving forward. It was a bold call, but there was little difference in the Giants’ return game during 14-9 defeat to the Buffalo Bills in Week 6.

Daboll and McGaughey tried to freshen things up by having Campebll join Gray for kickoff returns, but that didn’t help either. The Giants are still waiting for Gray to justify the faith shown by turning a game with an explosive return.

Playing the waiting game seems like an unnecessary risk when a proven return specialist like Crowder was on the books this summer. Ignoring his talents rates as an obvious misstep from a coaching staff under more scrutiny after a 1-5 start this season.

The Giants need big plays from wherever they can get them to help spark a pedestrian offense. There are signs of life from an improving defense that’s pilfered four turnovers in its last two games, but special teams must offer the hidden spark the Giants are still waiting to see.

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