The Browns are carrying just one kicker on their roster as they prepare for their preseason finale in Atlanta, but the competition isn't over.
Chase McLaughlin has performed well and was more than holding his own in a competition with Cody Parkey before Parkey suffered a quadriceps injury Sunday in pre-game warmups. Parkey was placed on injured reserve Monday — he's since been released from the team — and that left just one kicker standing in McLaughlin, who spent time with six NFL teams over two seasons before landing with the Browns earlier this year.
Browns special teams coordinator Mike Priefer expressed confidence in McLaughlin on Thursday but stressed the journeyman kicker had a "big week" ahead of him.
"He kicked yesterday, did a great job, will kick tomorrow and then kick Sunday and we'll see where we're at," Priefer said.
McLaughlin hasn't missed in the Browns' first two preseason games. He didn't miss at the Orange & Brown practice, either, in what was arguably his best kicking day of camp.
His most impressive kick was his most recent, as he nailed a 49-yard field goal late in the action Sunday against the Giants. To Priefer, this was as big of a kick as someone can make in the preseason because of the circumstances of the game. The Browns were leading by just a point, and a miss would mean the Giants got the ball back in prime field position and needed just a field goal to win the game.
"He drilled it and it would have probably been good from 55 or 56," Priefer said.
Ideally, Priefer said he would prefer to avoid what the Browns experienced in 2020, when they moved on from Austin Seibert after the season opener against the Ravens. The pursuit of stability, though, won't prevent the Browns from continuing to look for the best possible option at a hugely important position.
"I think Chase has had an outstanding training camp," Priefer said. "If he is our guy, then you do not want to swap guys out after one week if you can avoid it."
Ready to Roll
Browns DE Jadeveon Clowney recently returned to practice after spending more than the week on the sidelines. Asked if he'd be ready to play if Week 1 were today, Clowney pointed to the previous few season openers in which he appeared following minimal to no practice time.
"It's camp, a part of camp, stuff happens," Clowney said. "Have to take care of what you have to and get ready for this long season. That was the goal: not to come out here and hurt anything. If something happens, a little strain or something, take care of it now so it does not linger later on.
"For me to come out and get this training camp experience and move around and get going, I think I will be OK. I just have to go out there and do what I do."
Check out exclusive photos from Thursday's practice at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus
The Other Side of Clowney
Browns defensive coordinator Joe Woods clearly loves what Clowney brings to the Browns' pass rush, but there's more to the veteran's game. Woods said Clowney "doesn't get enough credit" for how effective he is against an opponent's rushing attack.
Woods is also excited by Clowney's versatility, a trait Browns EVP of Football Operations and GM Andrew Berry lauded when the team signed Clowney in April. Opponents are going to need to locate No. 90 before every snap.
"He is very hard to block so when it comes to game plans, I definitely feel like we need to move him some because he is a little bit lighter," Woods said. "When it comes to rushing the passer with the guys we have up front, we can move him around and we can create one-on-one matchups with whoever we want. I am happy to have that in my arsenal. It will be on display at some point."
Offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt figured there'd be a big leap in improvement from WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, and that's exactly what's happened.
Peoples-Jones has been a one-man highlight reel throughout training camp and drawn rave reviews for how he's conducted himself on the field and inside the meeting rooms from his teammates and coaches. Van Pelt has seen it before from rookies, who enter the league with "big eyes" and then gain confidence from the success they have.
"He came back this year with a lot of confidence," Van Pelt said. "I think last year early on, it was not there, and he was still trying to learn the system and learn what his role was. After the success, he had through last season and see him come back and have a great camp, he is a guy who has great position flexibility. You can plug him in at all three spots of the wide receivers, and he knows exactly what to do.
"He has had a really good camp and really proud of him."