Today's special teams preview for training camp will be a little bit different than the other ones we've been running. We already covered kicker and punter, but we still have long snapper, the return game, and coverage units left to cover. Those areas are covered in today's general special teams preview, but the only position that will have a profile is long snapper -- the other areas will just have general notes listed.
1. CHRISTIAN YOUNT - LONG SNAPPER
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 250
Age: 26 | Experience: 4 years
Note: Contract runs through the 2017 season...no worries about his roster spot.
There are no worries for Christian Yount again. He is now entering his fourth year with the club and has yet to blow a snap. The disaster against the Bengals last year was attributed to people being out of position due to injuries on the protection team, although Yount did take blame for one of the snaps.
The Browns also re-signed Yount last offseason through the 2017 season for just a little bit above the league minimum in salary. Unless Yount goes Ryan Pontbriand on the Browns and starts screwing up snaps left and right, he has the most comfortable yet skillfully challenging jobs in the NFL. The next question is, "how do we get him into the Pro Bowl?"
Final Roster Odds: 100%
KICK / PUNT RETURNER
Punt Returner: WR Travis Benjamin was off to a historic start to the season on punt returns last year -- one that was could to absolutely shatter a team record in return yards, probably by double the amount. We don't know yet if he's fully healed from his torn ACL, but this is an optimistic sign:
First practice back was a success thank god for it all #BrownsCamp14— Travis Benjamin (@TravisBenjamin3) July 24, 2014
Injured or not, Benjamin is the favorite to return punts. If Benjamin isn't ready, then one of the early favorites to replace him would be S Jordan Poyer. Poyer became the team's primary punt returner at the end of last season, and he actually had a higher return average than Benjamin did -- on 8 returns, he had 114 return yards (14.3 yards per attempt). Other players who could be in the mix include WR Jonathan Krause and CB Pierre Desir. We'll see if any other names get thrown into the mix over time.
Kick Returner: The early favorite for this role should be RB Dion Lewis. He was the primary kick returner in training camp last year and began the preseason as the No. 1 kickoff returner before fracturing his leg. Last preseason, the Browns used S Johnson Bademosi as their No. 2 kickoff returner, but he didn't look very natural in the role. During the regular season, the Browns used four kickoff returners, and none of them were Bademosi.
CB Justin Gilbert has openly said that he'd like to return kicks, and we know that CB Buster Skrine could be a threat in that role as well. Whether the Browns want to risk two of their top three cornerbacks' health on kickoff returns is another story. With that in mind, if the team still views CB Pierre Desir as a raw defensive talent, they could plug him in on kickoff returns, a role he had some success in during college.
For the second year in a row, S Johnson Bademosi led the team in special teams tackles with 11. The fact that special teams coordinator Chris Tabor is remaining with the team has to be a good sign. One of the team's early free agent signings this offseason was CB Isaiah Trufant, so you can expect him to have a role as a gunner too.
The other current Browns who made more than one tackle on special teams last year include S Jordan Poyer, RB Chris Ogbonnaya, TE Gary Barnidge, OLB Eric Martin, ILB Tank Carder, CB Leon McFadden, ILB Darius Eubanks, ILB Craig Robertson, and OLB Barkevious Mingo.
Besides Mingo, I don't know if anybody on that list has extensive job security. Carder could find himself out of a job if the team prefers somebody like the recently-signed Edgar Jones. Whoever doesn't start between Robertson and ILB Chris Kirksey could find themselves with a lot of playing time on special teams.
One dark horse candidate on special teams could be S Josh Aubrey, who looked solid last year and actually had a fake punt run in the regular season before going on injured reserve. Veteran ILB Zac Diles has some special teams experience, but hasn't done a lot of it in recent years.