Adding starting talent has been a theme for the Cleveland Browns this off-season, but building up their special teams unit has also been a priority.
Over the past several seasons, the Cleveland Browns special teams unit has left much to be desired. Since 2016, the Browns have ranked 26th, 27th, and 31st in special teams, according to Football Outsiders.
Because of the poor play of the special teams unit, it has caused the Browns to hire their third special teams coach in three seasons. However, current Browns special teams coach, Mike Priefer, brings much more optimism to the unit for 2019.
The Vikings led the NFL in special teams touchdowns during Priefer’s eight seasons as Minnesota’s special teams coach. His special teams units have also had a knack for blocking kicks and punts during his entire career coaching special teams.
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But it is not just the change in the coaching staff that is showing the Browns’ greater emphasis on special teams this off-season. Cleveland Browns general manager John Dorsey has been busy finding talent to bolster the special teams units.
One such move was signing linebacker Adarius Taylor. Although the Browns have a hole at linebacker and Taylor has experience starting, he is expected to have a bigger role on special teams.
Taylor was named the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ special teams captain in 2018. The 28-year-old proved to be a reliable player on special teams and made a bigger impact in that capacity for the Buccaneers compared to when he was starting.
Another addition who could have a big role on special teams is safety Eric Murray. Because of the hole at strong safety, Murray was expected to play a big role on the Browns’ defense. However, after the signing of Morgan Burnett, Murray’s potential role on the defense has appeared to dissipate. Instead, Cleveland.com’s Terry Pluto believes Murray’s impact will come on special teams.
But the attraction of Murray is he can become a key special teams player. He did start nine games for the Chiefs last season. He’s only 25, so his role may evolve. But the Browns want new special teams coach Mike Priefer to have some experience on that unit. – Terry Pluto
In Taylor and Murray, the Browns have added two players who are known commodities in the NFL as good special teams players. However, Dorsey is not just adding NFL veterans to fix the special teams unit. Instead, he is scouring the country to find special teams talent.
Look no further than the signing of wide receiver Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi. Sheehy-Guiseppi last played football in 2016 for Phoenix College and was not with a NFL team before the Browns. However, Dorsey saw value in Sheehy-Guiseppi because of his potential on special teams – via Pluto.
Guiseppi is a return man, a guy who is supposed to be extremely fast. His signing goes back to upgrading the special teams. He ran back four kickoffs for TDs in his last season at Phoenix College, which dropped its football program in 2018. – Terry Pluto
If Sheehy-Guiseppi can turn his success as a returner in college into being a productive returner in the NFL, it will pay off big time for the Browns. The last time Cleveland returned a punt for a touchdown was in 2015. The last time the Browns returned a kickoff for a touchdown was in 2009.
The Cleveland Browns want to be a playoff team in 2019, but they need to see improvement in their special teams unit to make that happen. With the moves the Browns have made this off-season, there is hope the special teams will be much more productive than they have in the past several years.