TAMPA -- All Freddie Kitchens wants from his kicker, whoever it may be, is peace of mind.
Austin Seibert gave him just that Friday at Raymond James Stadium.
Seibert saved arguably his best kick of the past month for early in Friday’s first quarter when he connected on a 54-yard field goal that split the uprights down the middle and had plenty of distance to spare. He followed with two more short field goals in the first half and added another in the fourth quarter to finish a perfect 4-for-4 on the night.
“Pretty good, huh? I like that. I like it a lot,” Kitchens said after the Browns’ 13-12 loss. “That's what he's supposed to do, though. I just want to know what we're getting when they cross the white line. From a skill position to a kicker, to an offensive line, to a DB, to a corner. I just want to know what we're getting, and we'll make adjustments from there.”
Check out photos of the Cleveland Browns at Tampa Bay Buccaneers by team photographer Matt Starkey
Seibert’s attitude reflected his coach’s as he stood by his locker after the game.
There was little excitement or jubilance from the fifth-round pick out of Oklahoma. It was more of a sense of renewed confidence after a training camp that saw him miss a handful of kicks he made look routine during his decorated college career. It also featured a miss on a 52-yard attempt the week prior in Indianapolis, his only in-game field goal opportunity through the first two weeks of the preseason.
As tough as it’s appeared from the outside, Seibert said he never let the misses affect his confidence. This competition between himself and incumbent Greg Joseph would be just the first of many during what he hopes is a long NFL career.
“There’ve been frustrations. Big learning experience as well,” Seibert said. “If you don’t go through adversity, you’re not going to be a better kicker. You just have to go through that adversity headstrong and put your head down and grind. That’s what I do.”
After two games in which he and Joseph rotated the in-game opportunities, Seibert did it all against the Buccaneers. He was informed earlier in the day he’d handle the workload like a kicker would during the regular season. Kitchens said it was too early to confirm whether he’d do the same with Joseph in next week’s preseason finale against the Lions.
“I think we’ve brought out the best in each other,” Seibert said. “There’s a lot of competition in the NFL going on right now in camps. Greg and I are both very good kickers so we’re both pushing each other to make kicks.”
Seibert’s first make Friday set the tone for his best night of the last month.
Seibert left little room for doubt on his 54-yarder, blasting it down the middle with yards to give. It was 3 yards longer than any kick he made at Oklahoma, but it was a repeat, he said, of the numerous makes he’s had on the practice fields in Berea over the past few months.
“It’s like, ‘OK, I can do this.’ Hitting a long one, especially. That’s definitely going to help,” Seibert said. “At the end of the day, you’ve still got three quarters and a long season so you’ve got to stay sharp and not take things for granted.”