After covering the kickers earlier, our Cleveland Browns training camp coverage continues with a look at the punters. The Browns are also trying to find a new punter, considering Reggie Hodges was not re-signed this offseason. Who will prevail: Spencer Lanning or T.J. Conley?
1. SPENCER LANNING - FAVORITE TO REPLACE REGGIE HODGES
Spencer Lanning opens as the favorite to win the starting punter position heading into training camp by virtue of the fact that this is his second straight camp with the team. The Browns signed him during the 2012 offseason, but he's actually been associated with special teams coordinator Chris Tabor for longer than that. In 2011, Lanning was with the Chicago Bears in training camp (Tabor was formerly an assistant with the Bears).
Hodges made the Browns' final roster in 2012 despite coming off of a torn Achilles, but he never was the same all year long. With Hodges not in line to return, this is Lanning's opportunity to succeed. I believe he will receive more reps than T.J. Conley out of the gate in camp. Lanning remained active last year by playing in the UFL for four games.
There are two other bonuses for Lanning, according to a recent article by Tony Grossi: he is comfortable as a placeholder for kickers, and he can also place kick himself pretty well.
Final Roster Odds: 60%
2. T.J. CONLEY - COMPETING TO REPLACE REGGIE HODGES
In a way, you could call T.J. Conley the Browns' veteran punter heading into training camp. He punted the entire season for the Jets in 2011, but wasn't good enough to retain the job in 2012.
During that one season of starting, Conley averaged 42.7 yards per punt, and a 38.8 net average. That was slight better than what a struggling Hodges did in 2012, when he averaged 41.8 yards per punt, and a 38.0 average. If the Browns wanted Conley's type of production from the get-go, they would have just brought back Hodges, right?
I think the hope is that Lanning runs away with this competition, and that Conley is there to push him. If Lanning just ends up being a big disappointment, then Conley can be the fallback guy on opening day. The reason you want two punters in camp, as silly as it may sound, is because a small duty like being a holder on field goals could use some training camp reps too, rather than being a quick street signing.
Final Roster Odds: 40%
On Monday, we will continue to look at other areas of special teams, including long snapper, the return game, and coverage guys. Our poll on the punter position asks who you feel will emerge victorious from this competition.