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He is a kicker who is built like a linebacker.
Even with a bye this weekend, the Giants might have to rely on Ryan Santoso for field goals, PATs and kickoffs when they return to action Nov. 29 against the Bengals. If that’s the case — Graham Gano tested positive for COVID-19 and is in the recovery protocols — the Giants don’t expect to go for fourth downs and two-point conversions to avoid Santoso.
“Ryan has a huge leg and has shown a tremendous amount of improvement since he’s been here,” Judge said. “It’s a unique skill set that he does all three – field goals, kickoffs and punts. He’s a mentally tough guy, too. He’s one of my favorite guys on the practice field.”
The 6-foot-5, 258-pound Santoso previously was with the Lions and Titans but has never attempted a kick in a game. He gets most of his practice reps on Fridays.
“Me and him normally have some kind of side bets going on as he’s kicking [to] kind of put a little bit of pressure on it,” said Judge, a longtime special teams coordinator who credited his lieutenants Thomas McGaughey and Tom Quinn for developing Santoso.
“I think he’s a little better in terms of roping that thing through the uprights when I’m talking a little smack behind him.”
The Giants have protected Santoso from getting signed by another team off their practice squad throughout the season just in case they wound up in this exact spot. He was added to the 53-man roster Monday.
“We have a lot of confidence in Ryan,” Judge said. “He’s definitely a developing player. I think he’s got a big upside in this league for a long time.”
Giants offensive guard Will Hernandez missed two games earlier this month after a positive COVID-19 test. Could Gano really miss none? He is required to miss at least 10 days if he is symptomatic but could return sooner if he gets two consecutive PCR tests separated by 24 hours.
“There’s an opportunity for that,” Judge said, “but there are some other things that go into that as well. Are there any setbacks in that time window? When does the physician clear him? There’s a ramp-up period. We have to be fair to this guy sitting in a hotel room for a couple weeks.”
Gano is 21-for-22 on field goals this season and just signed a contract extension through 2023.
“In fantasy football, yeah, plug him in and we’re good to go,” Judge said. “But, in reality, are we doing the fair thing to him individually and the team collectively to take someone who hasn’t had two weeks of an opportunity to prepare to go out there and do a job?”