Off-Season Position Analysis

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Browns 2020 position preview: Analyzing the specialists and returners

The virtual work is complete and training camp will be here sooner than we know it.

From now until then, we're going to devote some time to the different position groups that dot the Browns' roster. There's been plenty of change since the Browns last took the field, and we're examining all of it with an eye toward the 2020 season.

We're continuing with a position group that is led by two players coming off promising rookie campaigns.

The Specialists

The Returners

Check out photos of the specialists the Browns will be bringing into training camp

What we know: The Browns bet big on their youth at kicker and punter heading into the 2019 season as both Seibert and Gillan beat out the incumbents at their respective positions in competitions that came down to the wire. Seibert shrugged off an up-and-down training camp and delivered solid results, making all of his kicks from 40 yards and closer while finishing the year 25-of-29 on field goals and 30-of-35 on extra points. Gillan, meanwhile, started off with a bang, collecting AFC Special Teams Player of the Week and Player of the Month awards during the first month of his NFL career before finishing the season with above average numbers in most categories. The Browns' return game was in a state of flux throughout the year, as Hilliard did the bulk of the work on punts and kicks but was regularly spelled by others during a year that left special teams coordinator Mike Priefer wanting more. An open competition for punt returner and kick returner with a handful of new faces is on the docket at training camp.

What we don't know: The Browns signed Natson during the first few days of the new league year, an indication he'll be among the frontrunners to land the job at punt returner, kick returner or both. It just won't be handed to him, and we'll find out at training camp who will emerge as his top competition for the job. Peoples-Jones made some of his biggest highlights at Michigan on punt returns while Hilliard has proven he can break off big returns in the past. Back to Gillan and Seibert: How will each respond after a full season under their belts? Seibert has made it a point to improve upon his inconsistency on extra points while Gillan will work to put even more of his punts deep inside the 20-yard line. They're no longer rookies and won't be treated as such. And without competition (at the moment), they'll be tasked to set a high standard for themselves every time they hit the practice field.

The X-Factor: Natson - The former Akron standout was good enough to hold down both the punt return and kick return jobs with the Rams over the past two seasons. He'll hope to do the same in Cleveland, and if he can accomplish it, he'll deliver some much-needed stability and peace of mind to positions that have been in a state of flux for years. Natson's averages on punts and kicks were better than Cleveland's team averages in 2019. If he can deliver the same, if not better, that would provide a big boost to a Browns special teams unit that otherwise showed major improvements under Priefer's leadership in 2019.

The biggest number: 5 - That's where the Browns ranked last year among NFL teams when it came to limiting opponents on kickoff returns. Seibert's directional kicking had a lot to do with it, as the former Oklahoma standout showed how a kicker can be valuable to his team beyond kicking field goals and extra points.

Says it all: "The thing I've told them is they've made a big mistake. You have proved you can do it and now we're going to expect you to do it more often and be more consistent and be more productive. We left some points on the field with Austin and we left some big plays on the field with our punter. The good thing is they've made enough plays to encourage you to say, you know what, they can do it. It's there. It's in them." — Priefer, on Seibert and Gillan

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