From offensive linemen coming off the street and into the starting lineup, to undrafted free agents being called upon in the secondary, quarterbacks P.J. Walker and Dorian Thompson-Robinson picking up important wins, and players like wide receiver David Bell coming up with touchdowns in key spots, the Browns have dug as deep into their depth chart as any team in the league.
One area that has been consistent through it all has been the special teams unit under first-year coordinator Bubba Ventrone.
Long-snapper Charley Hughlett is about as reliable as can be in his ninth season with the Browns. Placekicker Dustin Hopkins has been money with game-winning field goals against the San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers and Chicago Bears.
Corey Bojorquez BLASTED this punt pic.twitter.com/eQfCCRvBhD— NFL on CBS (@NFLonCBS) December 10, 2023
As solid - and sometimes spectacular - as Hughlett and Hopkins have been, the MVP of the special teams unit may be punter Corey Bojorquez as he enters the weekend dropped 29 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line this season, which is fifth-best in the league.
In a season where the offense has often struggled to find its rhythm, Bojorquez has turned into a weapon that has often turned the field in Cleveland’s favor and helped defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz unleash the defense on offenses pinned deep in their own territory.
It’s an aspect of the game that is not lost on Ventrone, as he talked about Bojorquez this week (quote via a team-provided transcript):
“He makes it difficult on returners for sure. You saw this past week (when Chicago) had two muffs. We ended up getting one of them, which was great. It’s hard to catch a lefty like him and he can definitely put the ball out there. He can also get it up, and elevate the ball pretty well and he’s really been a great player for us. (Bojo) continues to improve and understands how we want him to play the game and he’s improving in his plus-50 ball as well. So really excited about how he’s come along and gave our unit and our team, I would say an advantage to be able to control the field.”
Touchdowns and sacks might be what drives the highlights in the NFL, but the Browns have shown this season that consistent play on special teams can go a long way toward securing a victory.
And given the way that playoff games can often swing on the slightest mistake, pairing Bojorquez with a dominant defense could carry the Browns deeper into the postseason than anyone is expecting.