Three Potential Punt Returner Options if Jabrill Peppers Can't Play
The Giants' projected loss of safety Jabrill Peppers, who suffered a low-ankle injury against the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday, will leave with more holes than just on defense.
Peppers, a special teams captain, was the Giants' primary punt returner as well and a good one at that as he was averaging a career-best 12.5 yards per return this season.
But this week, he's been unable to practice due to his injury, a development that casts doubt on his availability for Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Rams.
Special teams coach Thomas McGaughey believes that potentially being without Peppers will pose something of a challenge for the Giants' special teams unit, but it's not one that can't be overcome if it comes to that.
"Any time you got a player of Jabrill's caliber that you have to replace, then obviously it's going to take a few guys to replace him," McGaughey said.
"It's hard to replace that guy, but you just do the best you can, and the guys are going to step up, the young guys are going to step up and fill some of those roles."
So who are some of the options the Giants could turn to if Peppers can't fill his role Sunday? Here is a look at three guys with some degree of prior punt-return experience.
* WR Golden Tate. Tate has returned 107 punts for a career average of 10.1 yards per return, including a 71-yard return against the Tamp Bay Buccaneers in 2013 when Tate was with Seattle.
Last year, Tate returned ten punts for an average of 9.7 yards per return as a rotational punt returner for the Giants after Peppers suffered a back injury and missed the rest of the season. His experience on punt return would make him a favored candidate to replace Peppers again this year.
* C.J. Board. Board, an undrafted free agent in 2017, hasn't returned any punts in the NFL yet but did fill that role in college at Chattanooga. During his junior year in 2015, he was named a Second-Team All-SoCon punt returner, averaging 13.8 yards on 13 attempts.
Board has established himself as a legitimate role player for the Giants on offense and special teams so far in 2020. He returned punts for the Giants in the summer, so the role wouldn't be new to him if his number is called.
*CB Darnay Holmes. The Giants fourth-round draft pick this year has already emerged as a core special teamer for the Giants and could fall back on some minimal returner experience he gained in college to help the Giants.
During Holmes' college career at UCLA, he was a return specialist that contributed mostly to kickoff returns, where he returned 38 kickoffs for 878 yards (23..1 avg) and a touchdown.
Holmes only returned four punts for a total of 18 yards, those coming in his junior season. Fielding punts tend to be a little trickier than kickoffs given the spin of the ball, but if the Giants can get Holmes up to speed to where he feels and looks comfortable handling the ball in flight, maybe he can step in as a temporary option where his speed and quickness can serve him well.