The Cleveland Browns finished off their 2018 season with a 7-8-1 record. The season had its ups and downs, but overall it was a productive year that has raised hopes for the franchise going forward. Freddie Kitchens is now the head coach of the Browns and this offseason should have a lot different feel to it because of the success the team felt this season. But, before we get to the offseason, let’s go over what transpired this past season in our final report cards. We will finish up the report card series by examining the special teams unit.
Overall Grade: D
Britton Colquitt: B
Charley Hughlett: Pass
Greg Joseph: C-
Top Grade: Britton Colquitt
The Browns lone bright spot on special teams was punter Britton Colquitt. Colquitt was solid all season, especially in his accuracy. He had 32 punts of his 83 total punts land inside the 20-yard line, which was tied for the sixth most in the entire NFL. He averaged a solid 45.4 yards per punt, which was the 12th highest mark in the league. His punting was very important in many of the games this season.
Biggest Strength: Britton Colquitt
As I stated above, Colquitt was pretty much the lone bright spot in the entire special teams unit. He was able to perform at a good level while the unit around him struggled to block and cover. Colquitt helped the Browns flip field position or set the opponent back into tough field position.
Biggest Need: Kicker
The Browns need a kicker, one who they can trust. Last season, Cleveland went through two kickers Zane Gonzalez and Greg Joseph. Gonzalez was quickly ousted, while Joseph was able to make it through the last 14 games, making 14 of 17 field goals. However, he also missed four extra point field goals. The confidence in Joseph is just not high going forward. The Browns need a kicker who they can put out there 50 yards and under and feel good about the prospects of getting three points. Right now, that is not the case.
2019 NFL Draft Priority: Low
I would not take another young kicker to man the Browns starting kicker job. Cleveland has gone through a slew of young kickers over the past few seasons and has seen that avenue not work out well. The Browns should not try to address this need through the upcoming draft.
2019 Free Agency Priority: High
The Browns need to attack this need in free agency. The Browns will have a lot of interesting options to pick from on the open market. Robbie Gould, Stephen Gostkowski and Josh Lambo are some of the possible kickers the Browns could look to nab as their starting kicker. Cleveland should definitely look to address this need and free agency is the way to go.
The Browns special teams were a dumpster fire this past season. Britton Colquitt was solid as the Browns punter, while Charley Hughlett was not mentioned much this season, meaning he did not have a bad snap and so he had a passing grade this season. Other than that, the Browns special teams unit needs a complete overhaul. Kicker Greg Joseph was average at best this season, but the confidence is definitely not high in this young kicker. The Browns must look to upgrade the kicker position with someone who the Browns can trust to make kicks anywhere within 50 yards. Joseph, past 40 yards, did not instill much confidence.
The Browns coverage units also need to sharpen up. This past season, the Browns kickoff coverage allowed 23.9 yards per kick return, which was the ninth worst mark in the league. The punt coverage team allowed 10.7 yards per punt return, which was the third-worst mark in the league. Cleveland was just not good enough in their coverage teams.
The Browns return units were also bad. Cleveland averaged 20.1 yards per kick return, which was the fifth-lowest average in the NFL. The Browns were better in punt returns, posting the 12th best average with 9.1 yards per punt return. But, the Browns return teams also suffered from numerous flags that derailed starting field position. I do like the group of Jabrill Peppers, Antonio Callaway and Dontrell Hilliard manning the return duties this coming season. I think they showed some glimpses of promise this past season as returners. But, the Browns could look to find a better option to return kicks or punts this offseason.
The unit does have hope as the Browns were freed from the clutches of Amos Jones as special teams coordinator. His performance as coach this season had many fans longing for the days of Chris Tabor, which says a lot. This offseason, Cleveland hired Mike Priefer as the new special teams coordinator. The unit can only go up after the Browns had one of the worst overall special teams unit performance this past season.
Final 2018 Cleveland Browns Report Card Series: Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Tight Ends/Fullbacks, Wide Receivers, Offensive Line, Interior Defensive Line, Edge Defenders, Linebackers, Cornerbacks and Safeties