Monday, October 22, 2012
Phil Dawson just happens to be perfect on 12 field-goal attempts, and he does it through wind, snow and rain, including this kick at Baltimore last month.
From Terry Pluto's "Terry Pluto's Talkin' ... Browns’ special teams doing especially well"
October 21, 2012
CLEVELAND, Ohio — Pondering the sporting mysteries with Cleveland teams ... we're talking ...
About the Browns special teams ...
1. I've been a consistent critic of the Browns' special teams since Chris Tabor took over at the start of last season, a season in which they had enormous problems in several areas. But the units are operating at a high level this season. That's not just my opinion. Football Outsiders uses a complicated set of stats to rate special teams — and they have the Browns at No. 6 in the NFL.
2. When they break it down, the Browns are No. 1 in field goals and extra points. Phil Dawson just happens to be perfect on 12 field-goal attempts, and he does it in the rain, the whipping wind and probably could boot a 52-yarder through an Old Testament downpour of frogs. Assuming the snap is good — thanks to Christian Yount, that has been fixed — and the hold is correct with the blockers doing their job, Dawson is amazing.
3. The Browns rank No. 5 in kickoff coverage, according to Football Outsiders. They have the Browns seventh in punt returns and ninth in kickoff returns.
4. Not sure how they figure those return stats, because it seems they should be higher. Joshua Cribbs ranks third in kickoff returns at 31.3, and he's second in punt returns at 15.4. While Cribbs has yet to run one back for a touchdown and had a costly fumble in the loss to the Giants, he's having a big-time season. He's had a 74-yard kickoff return and a 60-yard punt return.
5. The kickoff coverage team has also been excellent. STATS LLC rates them No. 6.
6. The only negative area has been punting and punt coverage, where they combine to rank 24th. Early in the season, they gave up an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown to Adam Jones in Cincinnati. Reggie Hodges is averaging 43.7 yards per punt, much better than the 40.5 from Brad Maynard a year ago. But the net yardage of 37.4 (including returns) ranks 29th.
7. Several things have helped the special teams. The Browns kept rookies Johnson Bademosi and Tashaun Gipson specifically for the unit. Rookie linebackers James-Michael Johnson, L.J. Fort and Craig Robertson also bring speed. Veterans Ray Ventrone, Cribbs and Dawson are good leaders.
8. Another factor is the hiring of Brad Childress as offensive coordinator has allowed Pat Shurmur to take more of a big-picture approach to his job. Last season, the head coach was the offensive coordinator, so he didn't spend as much time in the defense and special teams meetings. Now he can. That's not about Shurmur mirco-managing, but when a head coach pops into the special teams meeting and encourages the guys — it makes them feel important.