Mike Priefer liked what he saw from Chase McLaughlin throughout the preseason and he's expecting the journeyman kicker to be even better during the regular season.
McLaughlin was the last kicker standing when the Browns cut their roster down to 53 and will enter the 2021 season as the Browns' top option at the position. That's the way it'd been for the previous two weeks, as the Browns' incumbent at kicker, Cody Parkey, suffered a quadriceps injury during pre-game warmups Week 2 of the preseason and was subsequently placed on season-ending injured reserve before he was released.
Priefer, though, stressed McLaughlin didn't win the job by default because he was "well on his way" to winning the job outright.
"I think he has done enough to win the job," Priefer, the Browns' special teams coordinator, said after Thursday's walk-through at the CrossCountry Mortgage Campus.
"Now, he has to keep getting better every week. He has to make the kicks when we need him to make them and kick off well. I am excited about where he is. Hopefully, he can come through for us."
Priefer said McLaughlin had a "good," but not "great" training camp. It ended on a bit of a down note when McLaughlin — who made all of his kicks in the Browns' first two preseason games — came up just short on a 56-yard field goal attempt and missed an extra point in Cleveland's preseason finale against the Falcons.
Priefer said McLaughlin "lost focus" before the extra point and understands he made a mistake. The pressure understandably grows in the regular season, starting Sunday when the Browns open the season in Kansas City, but Priefer stressed a kicker's focus shouldn't differ between the preseason and the postseason.
"If you are a kicker or a punter, you are punting for your job or you are kicking for your job every single rep," Priefer said. "I think he understands that."
Because of injuries or inconsistency, the Browns have been forced to make in-season kicking changes in three of the past five seasons. Last year, they made the switch to Parkey after Week 1. Priefer said the circumstances are different than 2020, when Austin Seibert struggled throughout the preseason, because of McLaughlin's strong performance throughout the preseason.
"I think Chase has had a good camp," Priefer said. "I hope we are not going to pull the trigger. I hope he goes out and kicks well and he is our kicker for the entire year."
DE Jadeveon Clowney missed his second consecutive practice because of an illness. Defensive coordinator Joe Woods remained optimistic about Clowney's status for Sunday's game.
"He will be fine," Woods said. "I think last week just going through all of the practices, we installed some things so hopefully, we get him back here in the next couple of days."
G Michael Dunn (back) and LB Tony Fields II (illness) were the only other Browns who were unable to participate.
John Johnson III would very much like to relive the result of the last time he faced the Chiefs. He'd just prefer it be achieved in a much different fashion.
Johnson played all 72 snaps in one of the most memorable regular season games in NFL history. His defense surrendered a whopping 51 points, but it was good enough on an unforgettable night in Los Angeles, as the Rams posted 54 in a shootout for the ages.
"They had some opportunistic plays and so did we," Johnson said. "I do not want that to happen with this one coming up. I want it to be low scoring and high scoring on our end. It was just all-around a great game. I go back and watch it, there was a bunch of great football all over the place."
Johnson was quick to remind reporters that the Rams' defense scored two touchdowns and forced five takeaways, including three interceptions of Patrick Mahomes. Over their next four games, the Rams allowed a combined 54 points.
"We played good enough football to win, and that is all that matters. Stats, rankings and all of that stuff does not matter," Johnson said. "As long as you can win games and if you have fourth down stops and two-minute stops at the end of a game, I think you have a good enough team to go to the Super Bowl."