The Cleveland Browns' special teams unit is getting a lot of attention this week, but it's not about a replacement at the typical positions at kicker and punter. Instead, the questions involve WR Travis Benjamin on punt returns and LS Christian Yount. For now, Benjamin is safe. Yount isn't.
When the Browns signed LS Charley Hughlett to their practice squad on Tuesday, I speculated that the two could split reps in practice this week and that if Yount messed up against the Titans, Hughlett would already have some chemistry with the rest of our unit and would get the call up. As it turns out, Yount might not even make it to the end of the week.
When head coach Mike Pettine was asked about the competition between Hughlett and Yount, he said, "[Chris Tabor and I] will talk about it at the end of the week to see if we want to make a move or not." That's a different tone than what Pettine had prior to the bye week, so one has to wonder if Yount already hasn't responded as well as the team would have hoped.
How serious is long snapper competition? Coaches had every snap by Charley Hughlett filmed up close pic.twitter.com/E1DaHb3nHy— Daryl Ruiter (@RuiterWrongFAN) October 1, 2014
When it comes to Benjamin, Pettine was more forgiving:
"We haven’t given up on (WR) Travis (Benjamin). We want to see him kind of get it back and get going again. ... I think it’s just too early to panic in that situation."
Pettine said that the team would continue to use S Jim Leonhard in situations where the opposing team is trying to pin the Browns deep in their own territory -- in other words, punts that require a fair catch around the ten, or letting it bounce [hopefully] into the end zone. When it comes to the regular returns, though, Benjamin has vowed to be more confident in taking chances:
"I'm going to showcase my skills coming into the Tennessee game and put our special teams in the top rank where they're supposed to be. ... There are plays out there where the adjustment is, 'I can make that play,' instead of 'I see this (defender) coming scot-free (so I'll) fair catch.' I have to be confident in making the first person miss all the time on special teams."
Let's go for it and hope for the best. Now, you just cross your fingers that Benjamin doesn't foolishly field the ball when a guy is breathing down his neck already, only to fumble it and really cost the Browns in field position.