Cleveland Browns special teams coordinator Amos Jones spoke to the media at the conclusion of minicamp on Thursday. Here is our reader’s digest on what he had to say:
Excited About Kickoff Changes
- We all know the rules to kickoffs were amended a bit this season. First off, they were glad that the NFL kept kickoffs. He thinks the play has evolved to more of an “open grass play” now, which is exciting for them.
Return Candidates for Browns
- The two main players who Jones talked about as big play threats were SS Jabrill Peppers and WR Antonio Callaway. Veterans have also volunteered to try to get in on the action. Jones also pointed out WR Evan Berry as “a young kickoff return guy who is trying to turn into a punt returner.”
- Here is how Jones described Callaway’s skillset as a returner:
“Sticking his foot into the ground and running vertical. The things you saw him do at the University of Florida, which was catch the ball, extremely comfortable with getting underneath of the ball and catching it and being able to stick a foot into the ground and get vertical. We labeled it as running as if he is a running back. Those are the big plays that you see him being able to make.”
General Strategies on Kickoffs & Punts
- He’ll always take a touchback, but you can also “steal possessions” by having a kicker who can put the ball in a spot you need to like Phil Dawson did for him in Arizona last year. He said they are having Zane Gonzalez work on that now, but “if you are going to miss, miss with a touchback.”
- On punts, you don’t mind skying the ball near the 10 yard line to make the return man stuck in between with whether he wants to return it or call fair catch — because then you can take advantage of a mistake. Similarly, on kickoffs, you can purposely kick the ball two yards into the end zone to entice the return man to take it out.
- Jones said there is a “real competition” at punter between Britton Colquitt and Justin Vogel, but also added that he couldn’t answer the question any other way because of Colquitt’s surgery.
- At kicker, specifically Zane Gonzalez, Jones said that most special teams are really just “competing against themselves, not against others.”
- Here is some good information regarding the types of things they do and prepare their players for in order to reduce being a highly-penalized team on special teams:
“It always goes back to technique. You are going to see a lot of this with the kickoff return. You are going to see people in a trail position of kickoff return that have never really been an emphasis on kickoff return because most of them have been going back at them. We do not allow jersey pulling in practice. We do not allow horse-collar block-type techniques. I think it is what you allow to happen if you do not correct it immediately. That has been my deal through the years is we know going in what we better not do in practice and do not put it on tape in practice because if it happens in practice, you are going to see it in the game. We are trying to put them in competitive situations in practice where you see the guy trying to get an advantage and he is really not getting an advantage, he is giving you a disadvantage. We are not going to be a penalized team. It is just not good for team football because you are talking about 40-plus yards every time, and a penalty negates that. Same thing on a kickoff return, you are going to see what the spacing is of the two men coming together on the back end because you cannot cluster anymore. We always are going to preach no penalties.”
- Josh Cribbs is a coaching intern, and Jones called him a legend. He and assistant Sam Shade appreciate Cribbs’ enthusiasm. They said that Cribbs invented a drill for them to use and they are calling it the “Cribbs Drill.” Although Cribbs was primarily a return man, he was also a gunner, and this particular drill involved that as a tackler.
“I think he has got a great future in him, I really do. He wants to do it. His wife probably wanted to get him out of the house anyway (laughter).”