Dante Pettis had a hunch that he might get elevated from the Giants’ practice squad at some point, given the injuries that had piled up for the team at wide receiver, but he wasn’t sure when that would happen.
This was the four-year veteran’s first season on a practice squad, and he gradually adjusted to the role. He spent most of his time during the week learning the systems of opponents, experimenting with different routes and releases and experiencing an increased freedom. The tempos were different. He could sell certain fakes and moves “a little bit longer,” he said.
But last Saturday, the day before the Giants’ hosted the Rams, Pettis joined the active roster for his first appearance in a game this season. He finished with 11 targets, turning five of those into catches and accumulating 48 yards, and emerged as a consistent option for Daniel Jones amid a plethora of injuries at the position.
Pettis’ presence as a returner — he returned nine punts for touchdowns in college at Washington — hasn’t crystallized yet, but special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey said Thursday he has worked “a couple guys” at the kick-returning positions since primary returner C.J. Board now sits on injured reserve after fracturing his forearm against the Rams.
“Getting back there again is fun just to be able to be with the returners and catch a few punts, kickoffs, whatever it is,” Pettis said after practice Friday. “What my role is going to be going forward? That’s honestly up to the coaches … but yeah, I’ll be ready whenever.”
During the 2017 season at Washington, he returned four punts for touchdowns, to give him nine for his career and set the NCAA record. Pettis finished with 90 punt returns for 1,274 total yards, including a long of 89 yards his sophomore season.
But after Board left Sunday’s game, Pettis didn’t take over as the primary kick returner. That job went to Darnay Holmes, who McGaughey said hadn’t returned kicks since college. Head coach Joe Judge said on Friday the Giants need to factor their field position and the scheme that’s called into punt returns — and who the punt returner is.
“I gotta prove that I can make plays and everything before they put me back there,” Pettis said.
He has slowly started to carve out a different role, though the length of its impact will likely depend on how long receivers like Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney and others remain out.
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