Special teams units seldom are valued by fans as highly as a good offense or a good defense, but for awhile, it was different for Cleveland Browns fans. When times were tough, special teams represented Cleveland's only bright spot, particularly due to the likes of former kicker Phil Dawson and former return man Joshua Cribbs.
Over the past several years, the Browns' special teams unit has seen a bit of a decline. While the coverage units have remained solid, the kicker, punter, long snapper, and return games have been either shaky or mediocre. Last year, there was no threat at kick returner, Travis Benjamin didn't have the same "it" factor on punt returns as he returned from an ACL injury, Lanning was pretty good with his punts, and Billy Cundiff left the kicker position unsettled by the end of the year.
Despite retaining special teams coordinator Chris Tabor again, the Browns have taken the rather unconventional approach to just say, "you know what, we're just going to blow up our whole special temas."
It started with the team waiving K Garrett Hartley. Now, we're either going to have a kicker who has never kicked in the NFL, or we'll add somebody else to the roster before the start of the season.
Next up was the announcement in camp that Duke Johnson and Justin Gilbert were the favorites to be the team's kick returner this year. No mention was made of Marlon Moore, who is still on the roster and returned kicks all of last season.
Shortly after that, the team waived LS Christian Yount after he had lost his form in 2014. Rather than letting him battle it out through training camp with LS Charlie Hughlett, it appears as though Hughlett is the guy.
And then finally, as reported earlier today, the Browns took the initiative to acquire P Andy Lee via a trade, waiving P Spencer Lanning in the process. If anyone's job was thought to be safe on special teams, it was Lanning's, considering no other competition was on the roster and he had a very stable season in 2014.
"We’ve said all along that we are going to be deliberate in our pursuit to acquire talent that we feel can improve our roster," Browns general manager Ray Farmer said following the trade.
How do you feel about the Browns making drastic changes on special teams this year? Are you all for it, do you think that they've made too many changes, or do you think they should've just kept things as they were last year?