The Browns can only keep one kicker when the team trims its active roster to 53 members in less than two weeks. Right now, it would appear they have two worthy candidates.
Under a new front office and new special teams coordinator Amos Jones, Cleveland has brought in competition for incumbent kicker Zane Gonzalez, who’s coming off a rookie campaign of highs and lows.
Gonzalez, who made 15-of-20 field goals and 25-of-26 extra points last year, is battling newcomer Ross Martin, a Solon, Ohio, native who hopes to have the chance to play for his hometown team.
With two preseason games, including Thursday night’s dress-rehearsal against the Eagles, still left to go, there’s plenty of time for both kickers to establish themselves at the top of the pecking order.
“We haven't had anything but one field goal,” Jones said Monday.
Indeed, Gonzalez and Martin have combined for one field goal — a 33-yarder by Martin in Friday’s loss to the Bills — and four extra points between the pair. With a small sample size to currently study, the Browns will surely use the next 12 days to get a better understanding of who gives them the best chance to win in the fall.
Jones made clear they’ll give both kickers equal opportunity to prove they can be that guy.
“I think both of those guys are trying to fight it out,” he said. “We’re trying to keep the reps even. That’s why coach (Hue Jackson) decided last week we would rotate them every play, and try to get them there.”
Much like Gonzalez — who won the Lou Groza Award as the nation’s best college kicker at Arizona State in 2016 — Martin comes to Cleveland with an impressive pedigree. The former Walsh Jesuit standout went on to set multiple program records at Duke, including career field goals made (78), field goals attempted (93), field goal percentage (.893) and total points (430).
Earlier in camp, Jackson said Martin was pushing Gonzalez to be the team’s starter. “He’s competing. The guy has made some really strong kicks,” he said. “He’s done a nice job. We will take it all in as we evaluate. We are a long way from deciding who is on this team. Is he in the competition? Yes, he is.”
Jones echoed a similar sentiment, saying Martin is “very meticulous in what he does.”
“He’s really good with that,” he continued. “He wants to have a plan every day, his work ethic has been impeccable. I see him as a guy that is right on the cusp, and be a guy that can probably kick in this league – hopefully very soon for him.”