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Benjamin, Bademosi anchor return, coverage units

Posted Jul 21, 2013

As training camp approaches, ClevelandBrowns.com will take a look at the 2013 Browns, position-by-position. Today’s spotlight is on the special teams.

Overview:

Johnson Bademosi made the Cleveland Browns' roster in 2012 not only for what he showed as a defensive back, but what he was able to do on special teams. And it was the impact that turned him from an undrafted free agent competing for a roster spot into one of the top coverage players in the NFL.

Bademosi registered a team-best 18 special-teams tackles. That total was good for a third-place tie among all NFL players, and also was the most by any NFL rookie. Following the regular season, Bademosi earned All-Rookie Team honors as a special-teamer from Pro Football Weekly/Pro Football Writers of America.

Bademosi’s play in special-teams coverage was a major factor in the Browns leading the NFL in opponents’ average starting position after kickoffs. Under the direction of special-teams coordinator Chris Tabor, the Browns’ opponents averaged the 19.9-yard line as a starting position.

With the departures of their last two special-teams captains in free agency, kicker Phil Dawson and returner Joshua Cribbs, the Browns are looking to Bademosi for leadership in the coverage and return games.

“I’ve been pleased with him,” Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said. “He has taken that type of (leadership) role, special teams-wise. Obviously, he is learning a new position and playing some safety. His approach has been great. I think he looks pretty good at safety right now. We'll keep playing him there and we’ll also get him some work at corner and see how that goes.”

Key Number:

25.4.

On the season, the Browns returned 50 kickoffs for 1,269 yards, including a long of 74 yards in the team’s 41-27 loss at the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey on Oct. 7. As a team, the Browns averaged 25.4 yards per kickoff return.

The Browns’ opponents returned 43 kickoffs 853 yards, an average of 19.8 yards per run back. The longest return given up by the Browns was a 34-yarder to Buffalo’s Leodis McKelvin. Only four opponents returned kickoffs for 30 or more yards, while the Browns returned 14 kickoffs for at least 30 yards.

Players to Watch:

Wide receiver Travis Benjamin.

With the Browns trailing the Kansas City Chiefs, 7-3, in the second quarter of their matchup last Dec. 9, Benjamin provided a spark that helped pace the team’s 30-7 win.

With Dustin Colquitt back to punt for the Chiefs, the Browns ran up three-time Pro Bowler Joshua Cribbs from his position at returner and turned him into a rusher to try and block the punt. At the same time, Benjamin was rushed back for the return. Benjamin fielded the punt at the seven-yard line, ran through the middle of the Chiefs’ coverage unit, got to the Browns’ sideline and crossed back to the middle of the field before getting into the end zone.

It was the longest punt return in Browns history, and also, the longest for a touchdown. Browns Legend Eric Metcalf set the previous mark for the longest punt return score in Browns history with a 92-yarder at Cincinnati on Sept. 4, 1994.

On the season, Benjamin averaged 25.3 yards per kickoff return and totaled 149 yards on three punt run backs.

“When guys leave, certain guys have to stand up,” Benjamin said. “I’m the starting punt returner right now, so I’ve just got to get that punt return and everybody else on the same page.

“It’s a great position. It puts me in a position where I can show my skills because, on punt return, it’s all about speed and quickness. You see a hole, you see where you’ve got to go, you just hit it and it will be a big thing. Usually, if you make three or four guys miss, you usually get a touchdown.”