We continue our training camp preview on the Cleveland Browns by looking at the special teams units. In Part 1, we’ll focus on the kicker, punter, and long snapper positions. In Part 2, we’ll look at return man candidates and special teams aces.
1. Zane Gonzalez - Returning Kicker
Height: 6-0 | Weight: 202 lbs | Age: 23
Experience: 2 years | College: Arizona State
Zane Gonzalez did not have many field goal attempts as a rookie last year. He connected on 15-of-20 field goals and 25-of-26 extra points. Gonzalez’ rough patch of the season came in Weeks 4-5, when he went 0-for-3. The rest of the season, he was 13-of-15.
Leg strength isn’t an issue for Gonzalez. His season long was 54 yards, and he never faced any issues on kickoffs. Gonzalez has the edge to begin this year’s kicking competition due to being the returning player, but it’s not very much of an edge. He will need to compete in this year’s training camp just as he did last year against Cody Parkey, knowing that nothing is set in stone. There is also a new special teams coach with the club, which cuts some ties of allegiance he may have had from Chris Tabor.
Final Roster Odds: 70%
2. Ross Martin - Competing Kicker
Height: 5-9 | Weight: 187 lbs | Age: 25
Experience: Rookie | College: Duke
Ross Martin was an undrafted free agent in 2016 who first signed with the New York Jets. He competed in training camp with the Jets in 2016 and 2017, but didn’t make the roster nor the practice squad either year. In 2016, Martin was 4-of-6 in the preseason on field goals and 1-of-2 on extra points, with a long of 55 yards. Last year, Martin was 4-of-5 on field goals in the preseason and 2-of-2 on extra points.
The fun part of Martin’s story is that he is a local kid, growing up in Solon, OH and attending Walsh Jesuit High School before going to college at Duke. Here is a shot of Martin a week ago showing that he can stick it from 69 yards out:
Final Roster Odds: 30%
1. Britton Colquitt - Veteran Punter
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 210 lbs | Age: 33
Experience: 9 years | College: Tennessee
Britton Colquitt finished with a career high in punting average last year (47.6 yards per punt). His net average of 40.6 yards per punt was the second best of his career. Punters age well, so the fact that this will be his ninth year in the NFL isn’t a bad thing, and he’s still under contract through 2020.
The primary thing that could cost Colquitt his job is an injury. He did miss minicamp to injury, but the team labeled it as a very minor knee injury, and that he was expected to be ready for the start of camp. He does face some competition this year in the form of a punter who punted all season last year with Green Bay.
Final Roster Odds: 90%
2. Justin Vogel - Veteran Punter
Height: 6-5 | Weight: 220 lbs | Age: 24
Experience: 2 years | College: Miami
In early May, the Browns claimed Justin Vogel from the Green Bay Packers. Vogel was an undrafted free agent out of Miami in 2017 who signed with the Packers. He played in all 16 games for them, logging 71 punts and setting a franchise record with a 41.6 net average.
Why did the Packers move on from of Vogel? They wanted to give him a shot to catch on elsewhere after the front office decided to spend a fifth-round draft pick this year on P JK Scott. He also had some good hang time, per Pro Football Focus:
Justin Vogel can boom em pic.twitter.com/Qzwa6JGRH9— PFF GB Packers (@PFF_Packers) December 13, 2017
If Vogel lights it up in camp compared to Colquitt, it wouldn’t be unheard of for the youngster to unseat the veteran. I’m not counting on it, though.
Final Roster Odds: 10%
1. Charley Hughlett - Veteran Long Snapper
Height: 6-4 | Weight: 248 lbs | Age: 28
Experience: 4 years | College: Central Florida
Three full seasons completed in his tenure with the Browns, and Charley Hughlett hasn’t had the yips yet. He is under contract through the 2022 season. I’d be curious to ask a former NFL long snapper how often they snapped during the offseason to make sure they remained picture perfect in their craft. It is a high pressure position to play; any other position can afford to have a gaffe every now and then, but one miscue by a long snapper and they instantly turn into a goat.
Final Roster Odds: 100%
Who will win the kicker competition?
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Who will win the punter competition?
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