Bears return man is focus of Giants preparations Print
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Wednesday, 28 November 2007 22:49
NFL Headline News

 EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -With each snap, Tom Coughlin exhorted the New York Giants' punt coverage team at practice on Wednesday.
``You got to get down there and tackle him,'' Coughlin screamed. ``Do not let him get started.''
The him, of course, is Devin Hester, and there wasn't a Giants special teams player who wasn't concerned about facing him on Sunday in Chicago.
``He's scary, I've never seen anything like it,'' said placekicker Lawrence Tynes, who filmed a commercial three weeks ago in Chicago with Hester for Samsung.
Tynes described Hester as a quiet guy.
But what the second-year pro from Miami does on the field has NFL crowds roaring. The special teams phenom returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown and a kickoff 88 yards for a score in a win over Denver on Sunday, giving him 10 career kickoff and punt return touchdowns.
The Giants saw the last two on videotape this week. They also have the memory from last season, when Hester returned a missed field goal a then-record-tying 108 yards for a touchdown.
``This guy is pretty special,'' said Giants punter Jeff Feagles, who has seen his share of great return men in 20 years in the NFL. ``You have to go back so far to compare anybody in the old days and it would be like Deion Sanders, who you always had to worry about when the ball was in his hands.''
While Hester has returned six punts for touchdowns in his short career, he will have a hard time doing it against the Giants.
Feagles might be the best directional punter in the league. His goal on every punt is to get it 40 to 45 yards downfield and have it land out of bounds.
Hester fielded two of Feagles' five punts last season and did not have a return yard. The other three punts went out of bounds.
Hester, who did not participate in practice on Wednesday because of a foot injury, has averaged 15.9 yards on punt returns, bringing three back all the way.
The kickoffs are a bigger concern for the Giants because Tynes has not been able to get any touchbacks.
His goal is to kick the ball with some hang time and have it land outside the numbers at around the 15- or 20-yard line. He also has the option to mortar kick, which is like a lob in tennis. It allows the coverage team to get downfield. Tynes said squib kicks are not as effective because the ball gets in Hester's hands too fast.
``I asked (trainer) Ronnie Barnes for Ambien to get some sleep this week,'' Tynes said. ``It's scary. The guy is phenomenal. What they do as a unit, you know, a lot of it has to do with the whole special teams, they are really good.''
Tynes and special teams coach Tom Quinn spent Wednesday going over every kickoff return by Hester, who has averaged 24.8 yards on 31 returns. Two have gone for touchdowns.
Hester didn't field any of the Giants' five kickoffs last season when Jay Feely was kicking. The Bears averaged 20 yards on those returns.
Of course, the return on the missed field goal early in the fourth quarter put the Bears in command.
Giants special teams star David Tyree, who went to the Pro Bowl in 2005, said the fundamentals of special team coverage are simple: You stay in your lane, you keep leverage on the blocker and you make a play. He also noted you don't kick the ball to Hester every time. That's playing with fire.
``We shut him down last year, but he found a way to make a play,'' Tyree said. ``He went and took a field goal back, so he still looked good. Overall, we did a great job. We didn't win the game, so it didn't help.''
If there is a cardinal sin for the coverage team player, it's getting out of his assigned lane or being blocked out of it.
``He will exploit that,'' said Domenik Hixon, whose seven tackles are third best on special teams. ``If you are a little out of your lane, he has great vision and will make that move to where you're supposed to be.''
Tynes said the good thing about his commercial with Hester is that it never shows Hester scoring on a return.
The Giants are hoping that plays out in real life on Sunday.
 

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