Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dawson is one of NFL's leading kickers

Steve King

August 25, 2008

Dawson answering leg strength questions

When it comes to long field goals, people are always trying to shortchange Phil Dawson.

First things first. Ever since Dawson made his NFL debut with the expansion Browns in 1999, he has battled the unfair rap by some that he lacks leg strength.

"I don't know where, or how, that got started," said Dawson after Saturday's 26-6 preseason loss to the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. "I had 13 field goals over 50 yards in college. I had never faced that criticism until I got to the pros."

He has proven that opinion dead-wrong by all credible accounts, as he has made good on 7-of-9 attempts, a healthy 77.8-percent success rate, from 50 yards and longer in his career.

It has helped Dawson establish himself as one of the top kickers not just in Browns history, but in NFL annals as well. He enters this year ranked fourth on the league's career accuracy list at 82.7 percent.

Not bad for a guy who has to kick in Cleveland with all the wind, cold, snow and assorted other bad weather.

Through the first three games of this preseason, however, Dawson is setting the bar even higher and has been one of the team's bright spots. He is 3-for-3 on field-goal tries, having hit the two longest of career at 57 and 53 yards.

The shorter one occurred late in the second quarter at Detroit. He's satisfied with it.

"It's nice to get a chance to kick long ones like that," he said.

The even longer one came last Monday night in the 37-34 loss to the New York Giants, and Dawson is still complaining about it.

Say what? Why in the name of Lou Groza would a kicker voice displeasure over his career-best field goal?

"Because they measured it wrong," Dawson said.

He explained, "We had the ball at the Giants' 39-yard line. I always -- always -- attempt my kicks from eight yards behind the line of scrimmage. So the ball was placed down at the 47, and when you add the extra 10 yards for the goal post being on the back line of the end zone, that makes 57 yards, not 56, right?"

Well, yeah, right.

"That's why I'm counting it as a 57-yarder," Dawson said. "From now on, that's going to be my career-long, 57 yards."

Officially, his career-long is 52 yards, which he had in both the 2002 and '03 regular seasons. Preseason statistics don't count in that regard.

But if Dawson is hitting them from 56 -- er, whoops, 57 -- and 53 yards in the preseason, it only stands to reason that he'll be able to convert kicks from that distance when the games start to count in two weeks. That's good news for the Browns, but the bigger issue right now, while we're still wrapping up the preseason with a game against the Chicago Bears on Thursday night at Cleveland Browns Stadium, is trying to figure out how Dawson has been able to strengthen his leg at the age of 33.

Even though Dawson is coming off probably his best season, hitting 26-of-30 field goals and scoring 120 points, tying him for the second-highest total in Browns history, he wasn't satisfied.

"I knew I had gotten away with some things last year," he said. "I wanted to work in the offseason to change my technique a little and correct those things.

"I was a little apprehensive about doing it, because I didn't want to mess myself up. I made a promise to myself that if things weren't going well after several games, I'd abandon it and go back to my old style.

"But that's not been the case. I'm clearly hitting the ball better, and with more efficiency."

Now, if only the people measuring the distance of his kicks were as efficient.

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