Amos Jones cracked a smile when he was asked about the kicker he'll coach as the Browns' new special teams coordinator.
"I did come from Arizona, right?" Jones said last week during his introductory press conference.
The kicker, of course, is Zane Gonzalez, who made his historic mark at Arizona State before landing with Cleveland in the seventh round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Jones was present for his Pro Day around this time last year, even though the Cardinals didn't plan to be in the kicker market.
Needless to say, Jones' familiarity with Gonzalez is strong, and he's liked what he's seen so far after one NFL season.
"I know he will work hard because Coach (Hue Jackson) has already told me about that," Jones said. "I feel good about that part of it. If you have a guy that is going to work hard and is willing to learn, shoot, we can go."
Gonzalez finished his rookie season on a high note after a rocky patch during the first half of the season.
After a smooth first three weeks, Gonzalez missed a field goal attempt against Cincinnati that would have given the Browns their first lead of the year and followed with two misses a week later in a Week 5 game against the Jets the Browns would ultimately lose, 17-14. One week after he nailed three field goals against the Titans, including a 54-yarder, Gonzalez missed his only extra point of the season in a pivotal moment and another field goal during Cleveland's loss to the Vikings in London.
Over the final eight weeks of the season, Gonzalez looked a lot like the kicker who shattered records over a decorated four-year career at Arizona State. He made eight of his last nine field-goal attempts, the last three all coming from 40 yards and beyond. His last two makes showed toughness in adverse elements, as Gonzalez nailed a 48-yarder in the wind and snow on Christmas Eve at Chicago and followed with a 51-yarder in frigid temperatures at Pittsburgh.
"Obviously, the weather is a lot different," Jones said, referencing the major climate change Gonzalez encountered going from Arizona to Cleveland. "You do get the wind. You don't get the snow.
"You don't see a lot of rookies play at the position. I was blessed to have one that set a franchise record out there (Chandler Catanzaro, 2014). Hopefully, we can get this guy to go into that way."
While he didn't share the same geography with Jabrill Peppers, Jones was familiar with Peppers' skill set much like he was with Gonzalez long before he took the Browns job. He was not only in attendance for Peppers' Pro Day at Michigan, but he coordinated the return drills in which Peppers participated.
"Unbelievable day," Jones said. "He worked his butt off for me that day. I saw a lot of potential. I coached him from the front so I could see his eyes."
Peppers, a starter at safety, had high expectations for himself as Cleveland's main returner on kicks and punts, but he finished the season admittedly disappointed with what he was able to do. He averaged 6 yards on punt returns and a little less than 23 on kicks. His 25-yard punt return against the Steelers in Cleveland's season opener was longer than any return the Browns had the previous year.
"You do kind of get frustrated because you know what you can do, but everyone keeps constantly saying that you can't do it," Peppers said in December. "You get frustrated because you are not doing it, but you know that you can do it."
Jones doesn't believe Peppers should be deterred, saying the former first-round pick still has the chance to be a "really special returner."
"The biggest thing with him, no different than Zane, is taking that first year and the lessons you learned," Jones said. "His college tape was obviously good. The other thing is he is a downhill runner. If you get the ball in his hands, he can be elusive enough to make people miss.
"I look forward to working with him because that little bit of relationship I had with him last year at that Pro Day was really a special moment for me because he is a great kid."