The offseason has arrived, and it figures to be a busy one in Cleveland as the Browns evaluate the highs and lows of the 2021 season. We're doing some evaluations, too, by taking a thorough look at how each position fared throughout the year.
Next up: the specialists
The Raw Numbers
K Chase McLaughlin: 15-21 FGs (Longest field goal was 57 yards), 36-37 XPs
P Dustin Colquitt: 25 punts (Longest punt was 56 yards), 41.5 yards per punt
Analysis in 150 Words or Less
After a solid start to the season from their specialists, the Browns ran into inconsistent stretches toward the second half of the year that led to a change at the punter position and questions about how the team should move forward at kicker. McLaughlin, a three-year veteran who had been on seven previous teams before the Browns, converted on his first nine kicks of the year and joined Phil Dawson in Week 3 as one of two Browns kickers to hit multiple field goals of at least 50 yards in the same game. He ended the season, however, with six misses in his final 12 attempts. Colquitt, a 17-year veteran, was signed shortly before the Browns parted ways with Jamie Gillan and punted well, but he will be an unrestricted free agent next month.
Number of Significance
23.2 - It wasn't a perfect year for special teams, but the Browns did lead the NFL in kickoff coverage with an average drive start of 23.2 yards. That's a credit to special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, the Browns' kickoff team tacklers and McLaughlin for placing his kicks in position for the tacklers to make plays. The group also made 14 tackles inside the 20-yard line.
Check out the best photos from the 2021 season by the Browns photo team
Defensive end Myles Garrett recorded 4.5 sacks and was the top star of the Browns' Week 3 win over the Bears, but Cleveland generated most of its points in the 26-6 win with its specialists. McLaughlin delivered one of the best kicking performances in the post-Dawson era by drilling kicks from 57, 52 and 28 yards and converting on two extra-point opportunities. No other kicker had drilled multiple kicks of 50 yards or more in the same game since Dawson, who achieved the feat twice in 2011 and once in 2012.
McLaughlin only had one game this season when he missed multiple kicks, and it came in a 13-10 win over the Lions in Week 11. His second extra-point attempt of the day was blocked by Detroit, and he also missed a 46-yard field goal in the second quarter. The Browns still found a way to win, although they would've preferred the extra cushion.
What They Said
"Field goal, I thought we started the season great, and we have been a little inconsistent down the stretch … I'm not looking for average. I'm not satisfied with average. I hope that from here we continue to get better both scheme, fundamentals, technique and personnel, and that will be the focus this offseason." - Priefer
Who's Back for 2022?
McLaughlin and Colquitt both have contracts set to expire when the new league year begins March 16. Long snapper Charley Hughlett is under contract through 2022.
The Browns likely will explore options to add new pieces to their specialists group in 2022, and that could mean using a draft pick on one of the few kicking prospects available. Three total kickers — Cameron Dicker (Texas), Gabe Brkic (Oklahoma) and Cade York (LSU) — were invited to participate in the NFL Combine, and P Matt Araiza (San Diego State), nicknamed "Punt God," will also be present after he has become one of the most discussed kicking prospects in recent memory.