Cleveland Browns special teams coordinator Chris Tabor spoke to the media on the final day of minicamp last week. Here's what the veteran coach had to say:
- On touchbacks vs. returns on kickoffs: With the touchback returning to the 25-yard line, we have seen more and more teams aim to put the ball just before the end zone in order to force a return, effectively betting on the coverage unit to get a better result. Tabor sees this as the way the league is headed but will use the strategy where they think it has the highest chance of success:
“Depends who you have on your coverage units, what the kick return units are, the match ups, those types of things. And then if your kicker place it, and keep it in bounds … it could be the way of the future, you saw a lot of it last year. I think every team is working on it now.”
- On the kicking competition between Zane Gonzalez and Cody Parkey: In 2016, the Browns got a good season from Parkey after a tough game on September 25 where he missed three field goals. Parkey went on to miss only two the rest of the season, for an 80% average (20-of-25). Despite this solid effort, the Browns drafted Gonzalez in the 7th round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Tabor isn’t about to let draft investment interfere with the competition, however:
“I think its going to be a great competition. Both guys are really good players. They both had great springs so I’m excited to see how it transpires and where they go from there. … Draft investment is not the deciding factor, whoever does the best is going to win the job regardless of if you are drafted or not drafted.”
- On why it made sense to draft a kicker: Tabor said they liked the accuracy and leg that Gonzalez brings to the table and that they are “trying to add competition at all roster spots.”
- On continuity in special teams: While the Browns coverage units saw a high degree of turnover in 2016 with the departure of long-time players such as Johnson Bademosi, Tabor expects more continuity in 2017. However, Tabor cautioned that he is “hoping to develop other guys ... special teams are always evolving,” so we should expect to see further changes before the final roster is set. Tabor also noted that the continuity at punter and long snapper, with the re-signing of Britton Colquitt and Charley Hughlett being favorable for special teams.
- On Jabrill Peppers: Tabor told the media that Peppers is working out returning both punts and kicks but didn’t signal any intentions on whether he would be the primary returner for either one. Tabor also reflected on what Peppers brings to the table, highlighting his ability to create opportunities in the return game based on “good vision” and not only getting the ball “north and south.”