Cleveland Browns looking to put special back in special teams
The Cleveland Browns special teams were anything but special in 2021.
Cleveland ranked No. 30 overall in the league’s annual unit review by Rick Gosselin, and No. 32 in field goals and field goal percentage.
General manager Andrew Berry took a hammer to the unit in the offseason by signing punter Corey Bojorquez and the kick returned Jakeem Grant Sr. to free agency and selecting placekicker Cade York in the fourth round of the draft. the NFL 2022.
Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer met the media last week at organized team activities and heaped praise on York: (quote via transcript provided by the team):
“For me, the sky is the limit. It can be really, really good. I’m excited about him. He’s the good guy. He’s the right guy for our stadium, for our city and for the division we play in.
While Priefer is excited about York, he stressed the rookie needs to work on kickoffs this summer to learn the nuances required at the NFL level:
“I just think we need to refine exactly how we want certain kicks to be delivered. He has to understand that this isn’t college football where they just like to bomb and hit touchbacks because we’re not like that. We’re going to have a time where we need touchdowns, but we’ve got suspended kickoffs, we’ve got liners, we’ve got firecrackers, we’ve got edges, we’ve got the upset and we have to be, so it’s it’s a whole different group of clubs up his sleeve that he has to get good at, and that’s what he really needs to work on because he never did it in college, but he has the ability to do so.
That might be a bit of a low bar to jump given the state of the kicking game for the Browns over the past few seasons, but the Browns are going to need York to be on top of their game as of the week. 1 given the close nature of many NFL games. (A lesson the Browns learned all too well last season.)
Grant’s lack of confidence is probably nothing to worry about, coming off of a Pro Bowl appearance and second-team All-Pro selection in 2021. With six career touchdowns on the kick returns (four on punts and two on kickoffs), Grant wants to take it to the next level by returning more than four punts for touchdowns this coming season, as he said to Anthony Poisal on clevelandbrowns.com:
“Every time I come back, I try to change the stats. I want the touchdown scoring percentage this year to explode. I want people to be like, ‘Oh, even Devin (Hester) hasn’t scored that much. touchdowns in a season.’ That’s my goal this year – to score more than four touchdowns on punt returns.
“That’s how I am. To be a revenant, you must have some madness. That’s what I’m proud of. I just try to do things that people aren’t bold enough to do.
Although he doesn’t reach his goal, Grant brings a momentum to the rematch that the Browns have been missing for quite some time.
Things haven’t gone well for the Browns on special teams in recent years, but the offseason additions of York, Grant and Bojorquez could finally steer the unit in the right direction.