You might be thinking to yourself, “Didn’t he say last time that the next article would be about the offense?” or “Why would someone write a report card on the special teams?” or even “Hey, that guy’s handsome, let’s cut him some slack.”
First of all, thank you. Second of all, you’re right to wonder, and the answer is that I can’t bring myself to get sad and write about the ineptitude of the Browns’ offense, so I’ll instead write about something more fun: the Browns’ special teams unit.
The good news is that kicker Phil Dawson is still around. Phil Dawson, in my book, has been team MVP roughly ten times since 1999. Kickers are generally the highest-scoring players on the team because they get a point after every touchdown, regardless of who is scoring it, and then, of course, make their field goals.
Well, Phil Dawson scored 90 of the Browns’ 218 points this season (One touchdown was scored on a punt return. Go special teams!). Last year, he accounted for 97 of the team’s 271 points, although only 253 of those were offensive points. As a point of reference, the Baltimore Ravens, who are NOT known for their offense, have been averaging about 110 points from their kickers, but scoring about 370 total points over the last few seasons.
Note: At times this season, Phil Dawson looked as though he was pretty visibly upset about the team’s ineptitude. How many teams have a kicker as an emotional leader? I like seeing that kind of fire in a player, but I also want it to be from guys who play more than one play per series. Furthermore, did he turn back the clock or what? I didn’t know he could hit from 50+ yards with regularity. That was kind of fun. Anyway, back to the point.
Cleveland is getting a higher percentage of points from a kicker than almost any other team. This would be fine if the team was getting a comparable amount of points as other teams, but that’s just about as far from the truth as possible.
Rather than find more creative ways to say the offense is atrocious, I’m going to take the high road and say Phil Dawson wins team MVP again! Congratulations, Phil. I’ll send you a few spare socks and a photo of me or something…I’m poor.
As for the rest of the special teams, it was, well, not quite as good. Coming into the season I was under the impression that Brad Maynard was worst in the NFL last year in net punting average, which is why he was available after Reggie Hodges’ unfortunate preseason injury. Much to my delight, I didn’t notice anything but relative mediocrity from Maynard.
But just to play it safe, don’t look at his yards-per-punt average, because you’ll have to scroll down through just about everyone in the league to find him. Two players had worse yardage averages than Maynard: Dan Bailey, who did kickoffs for the Cowboys for a bit and punted all of twice, and, wait for it, Richmond McGee! He punted eight times for the Browns! Two of the three worst punt averages in the league came from the team that wore white jerseys 16 times. Look good, play good.
It’s not all bad with Maynard though, as he did have a middle-of-the-pack net yards average, which is probably more important than actual punt yardage. However, I’m going to chalk that success up to the Browns having pretty solid kick coverage, both kickoff and punt-related. Even if that’s not true, I don’t remember ever becoming furious at how poorly the team’s coverage was at any point this season. I DO remember a lot of other things that made me upset, but kick and punt coverage was not one of them.
Lastly, the other phase of special teams to review would be the return game. If nothing else, we got another Josh Cribbs touchdown. Even though they’re obviously fewer and farther between than the fanbase has been hoping for lately, at least there was a sign that it was still possible. Signs of life are just about all fans ask for at this point. They would also like for field goals to be counted as good when they appear to go above the upright. And they’d love for someone with a Chris Gardocki-esque leg to be punting for the Browns.
Oh, and if these guys could also find a way to score some touchdowns like, oh, I don’t know, 15-20 more times per season, that would be pretty cool too.
I swear I’ll get to the offense next week. I’ve been feeling good lately, so I’m sure I’ll hit the skids and turn to them for some support.