Giants return special teams nucleus

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Tom Quinn has some stability on his special teams unit.

Placekicker Lawrence Tynes, punter Steve Weatherford and long snapper Zak DeOssie all return from last season.

DeOssie and Tynes are both entering their sixth season with the Giants, with DeOssie twice making the Pro Bowl without missing a single game. Weatherford made the punting position a strength for the Giants again after signing last July.

“We like to have our guys back and this is the first year that we’ve had the same punter, kicker and long snapper,” said Quinn, who is in his sixth season as special teams coordinator. “That really helps those three guys perform at a high level.”

The kick and punt return positions are another matter. The two guys who fielded the majority of kicks last season -- Devin Thomas and Aaron Ross -- are gone, leaving several players battling for the two spots.

David Wilson, Jerrell Jernigan, Da’Rel Scott and Andre Brown are in the mix for kick returner. (David Douglas also fielded kicks in Tuesday's practice.) Jernigan, Domenik Hixon, Jayron Hosley and Rueben Randle are all competing at punt returner.

Among those players, Wilson, Randle, Hosley and Douglas are rookies.

Hixon has the most experience, with 80 punt returns and 51 kick returns in the regular season. Scott was second on the team with 14 kick returns last season for a 24.4-yard average, while Jernigan averaged 23.3 yards on eight kick returns.

Hixon was the last player on the Giants to get a return touchdown, taking a punt 79 yards to the house against the Cowboys back in 2009. He missed the last two seasons with ACL injuries.

“A couple years ago before I went down with my injury I thought we were really in the groove and working well on special teams,” Hixon said. “Hopefully we can get back to where we were.”

Jernigan had trouble with ball security at this time last year, but has looked good in camp, with standout returns the past two days.

“I got a year under my belt so I had time to mature and work on the things I needed to work on,” he said.

Quinn said he’s happy with what he has seen from the players vying for punt returner, but preseason games will provide a better barometer.

“We need to see the three rookies that we have against live bullets back there, so that’ll be exciting for us to see,” he said. “Jernigan’s catching the ball better, he’s getting started better. Hosley has done some good things as well and he’s got some experience coming from Virginia Tech. Rueben Randle’s a guy that we’ve worked back there. I know that he’s done it in practice in college, but he has been behind two very good punt returners -- one that’s in the league and one that will be in the league soon.”