The New York Giants have faced some difficulties with their kick and punt returners over the past two seasons. At the beginning of the 2023 season, they relied on rookie running back Eric Gray for returns, but his injury and subsequent placement on injured reserve forced the Giants to seek alternatives.
In an attempt to address the return position, the team turned to veteran receiver Sterling Shepard. Unfortunately, Shepard fumbled a punt on the same day Gray was injured. Darius Slayton stepped up and performed well, but the team was hesitant to risk the health of one of their primary offensive receivers, prompting them to explore free-agent options.
Signing Gunner Olszewski
Their search led them to Gunner Olszewski, who was on the Pittsburgh Steelers practice squad. Olszewski, a former All-Pro return specialist with the New England Patriots, was signed to a contract by the Giants. Despite the Giants’ roster adjustments over the week, they managed to secure Olszewski on the active roster in time for the Week 9 game against the Las Vegas Raiders.
Olszewski had an impressive record with the Patriots in 2020, accumulating 346 punt return yards, scoring a touchdown, and averaging a league-high 17.3 yards per return. Although three years have passed, he has shown promise with the Giants, averaging 9.3 yards across six returns—significantly better than Gray’s performance.
Strategic Importance of Field Position
Given the Giants’ struggles with offensive output, gaining advantageous field position is critical to their game strategy. Olszewski’s contribution has already made him a valuable asset, and the team is hopeful he will continue to secure the return role. This would prevent the Giants from having to use key players like Adoree Jackson in the return game, allowing them to focus on their primary roles within the team’s strategy and scheme.