The Cleveland Browns had yet another underwhelming, lost season as they went 6-10. The season led to massive changes within the organization including at head coach and general manager. The Browns addressed their coaching position with the hiring of Kevin Stefanski and their general manager position with Andrew Berry, but there are a lot of things left to do this offseason. I have examined each of the team’s offensive position’s to-do list this offseason. We finish up this series by looking at the special teams.
The Browns special teams were pretty much the only unit on the team that seemingly exceeded my and most people’s expectations last season. Mike Priefer did a masterful job with his special teams unit this past year. Going into the season, the Browns were relying on two rookies to be their kicker and punter, so there was a lot of uneasiness heading into the year. However, both played better than expected. Kicker Austin Seibert was pretty good in his rookie season. He made 86.2% of his field goals, including 10-14 in field goals over 40 yards. His biggest problem was with extra points where he missed five on the season. Punter Jamie Gillan was even better than his fellow rookie special teamer. Gillan had a punt average of 46.2 yards per punt and of his 63 punts, 28 of those punts landed inside the 20. He has a huge leg and according to Pro Football Focus, his big leg allowed him to have the third-best average hangtime on his punts this past season in the entire league. Overall, the coverage teams improved from their terrible state of years past. But, the return game never was able to find a returner to stick with and rely on throughout the season.
1. Keep developing the young special teamers
Seibert had a really good rookie season as the Browns kicker. But, he has some things to work on this offseason. His extra point field goal consistency must get better. He cannot go another year missing five extra-point attempts. He also can continue to work on extending his range and being more comfortable kicking field goals over 40 yards. Gillan is a young punter overall after converting from rugby before college. So, he can continue to develop the finer details it takes to be a great punter. He has the talent to be the best punter in the league.
2. Find both a kick and a punt returner
The Browns must find a reliable kick and punt returner. Those jobs could be taken by the same player or two separate ones, but Cleveland needs to find reliable returners at those spots. They went through numerous guys last year in both roles with no one catching on and really taking the job for himself. Whether it’s a player already on the roster or someone they could sign or draft, this needs to be an objective this offseason.