The Browns Special Teams Rule
The Cleveland Browns over the past couple of years have shown some under-par performances, yet there is one aspect of the team that seems to be getting better every weekend.
The special teams unit is the cavalry of the Dawg Army, they instill fear and they will win the game by themselves.
The special teams have kept them consistent, and consistency is something Cleveland fans are not used to.
Every year the Browns special boys have been doing their job very well and this year is different, they have been doing it exceptionally well.
Joshua Cribbs, The Ninja
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Cribbs is, using my generation's lingo, dirty beyond belief. There are some hits where you look away to get a chip or take a drink knowing that the play is over because no one could have gotten out of the tackle. And then there is Cribbs running down the sidelines.
This year we have seen a small decline in Cribbs' return game (recently due to the concussion), but that can be attributed to the fact that every team plans their game around Cribbs and puts so much effort into stopping him.
With a decline in returning stats, we have seen him become a threat in the cyclone (which I personally still want to see more often), and catching the ball.
Watching him throw that ball to Eric Wright, was amazing, the play was sculpted perfectly, almost makes me forget about how terribly Wright has played this year...almost.
Yet, with every punt, with every kick, the whole audience is watching Cribbs because no matter where he gets the ball, it is going to be fun to watching him move down that field with it and make people look stupid.
Ryan Pontbriand, Old Reliable
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Arguably one of the best long snappers in the game, Pontbriand is so consistent and has anchored down that job since 2003.
There isn't much to say about Pontbriand, he will never make the game winning catch, he won't throw the TD pass (after watching the Browns play the Saints, I am not so sure), yet, he makes this well-oiled machine of the Browns special teams work.
Taken in the 2003 draft, he has been noted as the highest taken long snapper in the NFL. He went in the fifth round while most are taken as free agents. And i will say, good choice, totally worth it.
Here's to Pontbriand: keep being yourself; the Browns need it.
Reggie Hodges, The Sniper
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Did you see that run!? To see a punter sacrifice his body for the team like that says wonders. I haven't had much faith in Hodges from watching him last season a little and before that, yet this season he has blown me away.
He has 14 of his 38 punts to land inside the 20. Cleveland may not have the best defense in the world, and giving them more chances to get the ball back or to stop the opposing offense has shown.
Whenever the Browns punt, the other team knows that they are starting with poor field position, and the Browns defense knows they have a chance to give a three-and-out and help their offense score the points.
Back to that run. He is pretty quick out there, after watching that run, I'm confident in more fakes, but the other teams now know the Browns can do it.
Phil Dawson, The General
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The only remaining member of the "expansion" team. Phil has been on the Browns since they came back into existence, and has kept the Browns in existence.
Dawson is amazing, with a career field goal percentage of 83%, and that is kicking with the elements of the AFC North and the Lake Eerie winds blowing the stadium over.
He is right now the seventh most accurate kicker in the NFL right now, and considering those conditions...that is awesome.
This man has won games by himself before, thank you Bills. Given it is was probably the most boring game to ever watch, but it got the job done.
Also, more behind the scenes but Dawson has average returns from his kickoffs of about 20 yards. He sets up the tacklers perfectly so they can go down and give the other offense terrible field position.
Every game you can count on Phil to put a few through the uprights and keep the Browns alive and kicking (ha, pun unintended).
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We cant forget the guys make the big hits on special teams. The boys who make the holes for Cribbs and make sure they stop the ball carriers.
Blake Costanzo, Nick Sorenson, and I think I have seen Cribbs out there making tackles now and then. Costanzo has made a big name for himself pretty much tackling anybody who gets the ball on special teams.
These guys wont get as much credit as the kickers or the returners, yet they have just as much impact on the games.
These boys wont be the main story on ESPN, but you may see them on the Top 10 plays when they destroy a returner not looking.
Keep On Keepin' on
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Honorable mention to T.J. Ward for the blocked field goal the other week.
Hats off to you Brad Seely, you have done very well and please don't stop, it's all we have right now. Seely has ranked in the top 10 nine times for special teams and 5 of those times in the top 5.
The Browns have had a leg up on every team they have faced with their special teams and they will continue to dominate on special teams.
Hodges will pin them deep, Cribbs will return the punt for a touchdown and Phil Dawson will win the game with a 75-yard field goal (wind aided, of course).
I hate when the other team scores, but I love watching Cribbs returning the ball, I guess I should be looking forward to punts more.
Thanks for reading!