Mike Priefer had a good problem on his hands as he evaluated the two punters competing for one roster spot.
Both Britton Colquitt and Jamie Gillan had shown enough to warrant one of 32 punting jobs in the NFL. Colquitt, Priefer said, was more consistent, but Gillan, a rookie, had the kind of potential the Browns special teams coordinator couldn’t overlook. Ultimately, that’s how the Browns landed on Gillan, who will make his NFL regular season debut Sunday against the Titans.
“The safe bet would have been to go with Britton,” Priefer said before Thursday’s practice. “He is more consistent, he has been around a long time. I think it would have been very difficult to let a guy like Jamie out of the building. He is so talented. Got such a big leg swing. The sky is the limit for him.
“I think he is just scratching the surface on how good he can be and how good of a punter and holder he can be in this league.”
Colquitt, the Browns punter since 2016, landed a spot with the Minnesota Vikings shortly after his release from Cleveland.
Gillan handled all of the punting in Cleveland’s final two preseason games and all of the holding in the finale. He was at his best punting against Tampa Bay, finishing with an average net of 44 yards, and was solid enough on holds for kicker Austin Seibert, also a rookie, to make all of his kicks.
Priefer said Gillan’s ability as a holder -- something he’d never done until he signed with the Browns -- was a “big factor” in the final decision.
“We saw that he was raw, but he was talented and he has great hands,” Priefer said. “A very good athlete as you guys know and in the decision-making process, it was a big deal. He showed enough in that last preseason game and throughout the spring and summer that he has the ability to do it."
-- Browns coach Freddie Kitchens challenged multiple pass interference calls during the preseason but didn’t see any overturned.
That wasn’t just a problem for him. It was a league-wide trend.
Kitchens said the team discovered only five of 50 pass interference challenges were overturned during the preseason. That analysis, albeit a small sample size, will help guide him in the games that matter.
“I think we have a feel for it,” Kitchens said. “I think you have to be pretty certain.”
Offensive coordinator Todd Monken called Johnson an “excellent football player” who had to make his mark his own way.
“When you are talking about Odell (Beckham Jr.), you are talking about unique skill set,” Monken said. “When you are talking about D’Ernest, you are talking about a unique mental toughness. His physical talents are solid, but he is a smart, tough football player that you can count on. It carries a guy a long way.
“Some guys just have edge.”
Defensive coordinator Steve Wilks said he’s been impressed with the team’s two rookie linebackers, Sione Takitaki and Mack Wilson, but he made it clear the Browns would be counting on veterans Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey in a big way Sunday and beyond.
“When you look back on some of the film from last year and some of the things they are doing this year, I love the physicality that Christian is playing with, Joe with his ball skills has been able to play out in space,” Wilks said. “Those guys are doing a great job of playing downhill, which we emphasize a lot at our line.”
-- Jarvis Landry got a chance to relive one of his best memories to date as a Cleveland Brown on Tuesday when he was on site selling Bud Light Victory Fridge’s at a pop-up store in Cleveland. Those types of fridges swung open all around the city when the Browns won their first game in 2018 on a Week 3 Thursday night against the Jets.
"It was kind of where it all started,” Landry said. “Obviously in the offseason with the moves the organization made, but obviously winning games created the momentum that we needed to be able to come into this season. I think, not only are we excited, but Cleveland Browns fans are excited and should be."