Training camp will have a different feel this year for the Cleveland Browns.
The hype surrounding the team will still be high — that never changes — but for the first time since Bernie Kosar was running the show there will not be questions surrounding who will be the starter at quarterback.
While the quarterback position is set, there will still be a handful of position battles going on, with placekicker being one that fans should keep an eye on.
It might not be the sexiest part of training camp and the preseason, but with the Browns expecting to be in the running for a playoff position, having a reliable placekicker could be the difference between securing a postseason berth or ending the season disappointed.
The Browns are looking at two kickers: second-year player Greg Joseph, who signed with the Browns after Week 2 of last season, and rookie Austin Seibert, selected in the fifth round of this year’s draft.
There is only room for one placekicker on the roster, and Joseph may want to keep the moving truck on standby as he is the veteran most likely to be released, at least according to ESPN’s Jake Trotter:
The Browns spent a fifth-round pick on Oklahoma kicker Austin Seibert for a reason, a move that immediately placed incumbent Greg Joseph on the bubble. It didn’t help that Seibert’s leg impressed during minicamp either.
Since he is in his second season Joseph is technically a veteran, but it is a bit of a stretch to focus on him in a column about veteran players who could be cut following the preseason. Be that as it may, general manager John Dorsey has shown a preference for making a path for his own players to see the field, so Seibert has a leg up (so to speak) in that regard.
Joseph was 25-of-29 (86.2 percent) on extra points and 17-of-20 (85 percent) on field goals last season, with his three misses on field goals coming from 40-plus yards. Seibert converted 79.7 percent of his field goals and 98.4 percent of his extra points at Oklahoma, while also finishing with the most career points (499) among kickers. The previous record holder? None other than former Browns kicker Zane Gonzalez, who many fans could not wait to run out of town, so take that record for what it is worth.
Even though he is just in his second year, Joseph may have a slight veteran edge, but that could quickly disappear in training camp, as special teams coordinator Mike Priefer explained to clevelandbrowns.com:
“I think they are both very similar. I think it is basically how they follow through or how they strike the ball. I think there are slight differences, but they are both strong-legged right-footed kickers. What I talk about a lot — you guys will hear me say this all year long — is for a place kicker to be effective, he has to have great timing so it doesn’t get blocked off the edge, he has got to have great elevation so he does not get blocked up the middle and obviously accuracy. Those three things play into it, and both of those guys do all three things well.
“Right now, Austin does not have the timing down because the other three guys have worked out with Greg, (LS) Charley (Hughlett) and (P) Britton (Colquitt) in terms of the timing. We want them to be around 1.3, 1.30, 1.27 – 1.32 (seconds) is our parameters. Austin is a little bit slower than that right now, but as he continues to work with those guys, he will speed it up a little bit.”
The kicking competition may not be one that brings fans out to training camp or to preseason games this summer, but it could be one of the more important ones to watch as the difference between making or missing the playoffs this year could come down to a roster decision made right before the season begins.