Today, we begin covering the special teams units on thein anticipation for training camp, starting with the kickers and punters. The kicker and punter positions have received complete overhauls in 2015.
1. ANDY LEE - STARTING PUNTER
At the beginning of June, the Browns upgraded the punter position by acquiring Andy Lee from the San Francisco 49ers and waiving Spencer Lanning. Lee has been one of the best punters in the NFL since he was a sixth-round draft choice by the 49ers in 2004. He is a three-time Pro Bowler and a four-time All-Pro.
In 11 years in the NFL, Lee averaged 46.2 yards per punt, with a net average of 39.6 yards. In 2 years in the NFL, Lanning averaged 44.1 yards per punt, with a net average of 38.8 yards. Lee has historically been able to down more of his punts inside the 20 than Lanning too. The 49ers didn't mind moving on from Lee after they had drafted Clemson punter Bradley Pinion in the 5th round of this year's draft.
Just how good is Lee in terms of other NFL punters? According to the Mercury News, Lee ranks fifth all-time in both gross average and net average. The Browns might have question marks at some of their other positions on special teams, but with Lee under contract through 2018, the team won't have to worry about their punter for the next four years.
Final Roster Odds: 100%
2. CAREY SPEAR - COMPETING TO BE THE STARTING KICKER
Carey Spear was an undrafted free agent in 2014 who spent training camp with the Philadelphia Eagles. He is a local kid out of Mayfield Village; he graduated from Mayfield High School. He didn't attempt a kick during last year's preseason and was said to be "noticeably bad in training camp." During a joint practice between the Eagles and Patriots with super-narrow goalposts, CSNPhilly.com said that he missed 10-of-11 attempts.
I assume that Spear has recovered from that rough spell, otherwise the Browns wouldn't have him camp. He did have the nickname "Murderleg" from his college days for the big leg he possessed and the vicious hits he delivered. Here is a video of him taking out WR Cordarrelle Patterson during his college days.
Fans will probably get behind Spear since he grew up a Browns fan and watched Phil Dawson, just like many of us. Check out this nice feature from Kevin Jones on Spear's background over at Browns.com.
Final Roster Odds: 40%
3. TRAVIS COONS - COMPETING TO BE THE STARTING KICKER
Travis Coons was an undrafted free agent in 2014 who spent training camp with the Tennessee Titans. Coons had beaten out K Maikon Bonani in a battle of undrafted kickers during camp, but head coach Ken Whisenhunt preferred a veteran kicker. When the Chiefs cut K Ryan Succop, the Titans immediately said goodbye to Coons, who was 2-of-3 in the preseason.
Coons may have the upper edge in the competition mentally, since he technically "won" a competition last year. However, with both Spear and Coons, it could very well be that neither of them end up on the roster. The Browns have already said that Spear and Coons aren't just competing against each other, but every kicker around the league who could potentially be cut. If worst comes to worst, Cleveland could always bring back a veteran like Billy Cundiff or Garrett Hartley. They don't need the camp experience.
Final Roster Odds: 40%
Next up, we'll look at long snapper, the return game, and the coverage units on special teams. Our poll today asks who you think will win the kicker competition.