The Cleveland Browns have not excelled on special teams for the past several seasons, but coordinator Mike Priefer may have found a way to change that.
There is a lot of hope for the Cleveland Browns special teams units after the organization hired Mike Priefer this offseason to lead the group.
During his time with the Minnesota Vikings, Priefer helped build one of the most potent special teams units in the NFL. Although there were kicker issues in Minnesota, they regularly had one of the best return units in the league.
For the Browns, they are needing to see improvement in their special teams because the group has been severely lacking for several years. Last year, the Browns special teams ranked second worst in the league, according to Football Outsiders.
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However, Priefer explained Wednesday that it may not have all been the fault of Amos Jones, the Browns’ special teams coordinator last season. The poor play could have resulted because of a decision made by then head coach Hue Jackson – via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal.
"““It looked like some of the better players on special teams were on the sideline on some of those plays [last season], which I don’t understand,” Priefer said. “At the end of the day, you have to put your best players out there, and sometimes your best players are starters on offense or defense.”” – Ulrich, Akron Beacon Journal"
Priefer said the decision to sit the best players was not Jones’ decision, but the head coach’s. However, with Freddie Kitchens now the man in charge, Priefer will be able to play whoever he wants on special teams, even if they are a starter.
Ulrich also pointed out that Browns defensive coordinator Steve Wilks will not get in the way of his defensive starters playing on special teams. It is notable because Wilks spent time last season as a head coach, so Jackson may have been one of the few head coaches who did not play starters on special teams.
If the Browns want to hit their expectations and reach the playoffs, they are going to need improvement from their special teams unit. Strong special teams play will make life easier for both the offense and defense.
With more starters likely to be playing on special teams this season, there is reason to believe the play of the group will improve. And if it does improve, Jackson’s decision to play only certain players on special teams could become another blemish on his time as the Browns head coach.