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Giants’ unofficial depth chart: Suddenly, a real competition for the punting job

Oakland Raiders v Kansas City Chiefs Johnny Townsend | Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

Incumbent Riley Dixon has a new challenger

The New York Giants claiming punter Johnny Townsend off waivers from the Oakland Raiders this week can only be read one way — there is now a real competition brewing for the Giants’ punting job.

Ryan Anderson punted fairly well during the spring and summer, but apparently the Giants never saw the left-footed one-time Rutgers punter as true competition for incumbent Riley Dixon.

The same can’t be said for Townsend, a 2018 fifth-round pick by the Raiders.

Townsend did not live up to expectations in Oakland last year. The 24-year-old averaged 43.2 yards per punt in 2018, 31st in the league, during his rookie season. He was 29th in the league with a 38.3-yard net average.

I reached out to Levi Damien of SB Nation’s Raiders web site, Silver & Black Pride, for thoughts on Townsend. Here are the results of a quick Q&A:

Ed: Why did the Raiders waive him? Seems like a quick give-up on a draft pick.

Levi: They would likely have cut him last season if they were playing for anything. He was statistically the worst punter in the NFL and didn’t really show the ability to improve in training camp.

As far as him being a draft pick, he was a consolation prize really. Michael Dickson went early in the fifth round and the Packers traded up to the spot just ahead of the Raiders to steal J.K. Scott. The Raiders settled for Townsend at that point, though they swore he was their guy all along because that’s what they have to say.

Ed: Was he as bad in 2018 as the stats indicate?

Levi: Yeah, I believe he was that bad. He simply doesn’t have that strong of a leg. He was supposed to make up for it by being a directional punter, but that part of his game never really materialized in a meaningful way. At one point in the season he had at least one below 30-yard shank in several games in a row and each shank was worse than the previous. He was clearly in his head.

Ed: If he beats out incumbent Riley Dixon for the Giants punting job, will that be because Townsend is good or Dixon is bad?

Levi: From my perspective, it’s probably because Dixon didn’t show he was noticeably better and Townsend is younger so they would take a chance Townsend could improve while they know what Dixon brings to the table. But I would be surprised if the Giants weren’t still going to find themselves scanning the waiver wires for a better option soon regardless.

Dixon, acquired from the Denver Broncos for a seventh-round pick, averaged 45.4 yards per punt last season. The Giants were seventh in the league with a net average of 42.9 yards per punt.

Dixon was 27th in the NFL in percentage of punts downed inside the 20-yard line at 28.2 percent. Townsend was last among 35 qualifying punters at 24.3 percent.

Below, a look at the Giants’ updated unofficial depth charts for Friday night’s Week 2 preseason game against the Chicago Bears.

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