It's time to move on to special teams for our 2016 Cleveland Browns training camp preview. In part 1, we will look at the elements related to the kicking game -- punter and kicker. In part 2, we'll discuss the long snapper, return game, and coverage positions.
1. ANDY LEE - STARTING PUNTER
Lee is under contract with the Browns through 2018. His cap hit is $2.8M this year, $3.4M in 2017, and $4.1M in 2018. The team would not carry any dead cap if they ever decided to move on from him. Now that the contract stuff is out of the way, let's take a look at how one of the best punters in NFL history actually performed for the Browns last year.
In 2015, Lee had an average of 46.7 yards per punt, and a net average of 40.1 yards. He had 1 punt returned for a touchdown. When Spencer Lanning was with the Browns in 2014, he averaged 44.3 yards per punt, with a net average of 39.2 yards. There was a definite improvement, and Lee's stats were similar to what he had done with the 49ers in 2014.
Still, I was left a little disappointed with how Lee finished the season. In the first half of 2015, his average was 48.9 yards per punt, with a net average of 42.8 yards. The second half of the year, his average was 43.9 yards per punt (5 yards less), with a net average of 36.8 yards (6 yards less). He also had some beautiful punts last preseason inside the 5 or 10 yard line, but we didn't see him provide that same advantage in the regular season.
Final Roster Odds: 99%
1. TRAVIS COONS - STARTING KICKER
Travis Coons' production as a rookie was solid when you look at the fact that he was successful on 28-of-32 field goals (87.5%). When you dig deeper into how his season went, though, a lot of questions start to creep up. Coons has the leg for 50-yard field goals, but his long-distance kicks kept getting blocked in part due to the low trajectory on his kicks (the blocking also played a problem).
Coons missed two extra points (22-of-24 for 91.7%), an area you'd like to think is more automatic despite the rule changes last year. His kickoffs didn't travel as long as one would desire, although that wasn't a significant problem because Cleveland's kick coverage unit was so good. Coons has been working this offseason on improving his craft, but the big question mark will be if he's improved the way he hits long-distance kicks. Head coaches need to at least have that threat of a 50+ yard field goal in their back pocket for the end-of-a-half or the end-of-a-game. If Coons can't deliver on any of those as well as even a less-accurate kicker, then he might be out of a job.
Final Roster Odds: 75%
2. PATRICK MURRAY - COMPETING TO BE THE STARTING KICKER
Patrick Murray had an impressive season in 2014 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was 20-of-24 that season (83.3%) including 5-of-6 from beyond 50 yards, and was also perfect on extra points (31-of-31) prior to them being moved back.
Murray suffered an injury during training camp last year and was placed on injured reserve for the season. The Buccaneers drafted a kicker in the second round this year, so they waived Murray in mid-May. If Murray's leg proves to be stronger and he hits his kicks with a better trajectory than Coons, he should be viewed as serious competition this camp.
Final Roster Odds: 25%
Today's poll asks who is going to win the kicking competition between Coons and Murray.