Rookie Reflection: Zane Gonzalez embracing Browns kicker competition


Over the next two weeks, we're breaking down the Browns' 2017 NFL Draft class — from Myles Garrett to Matthew Dayes — and how they might contribute next fall.*

How was his spring?

Zane Gonzalez, the first kicker to be drafted by the Browns since 1989, immediately found himself in a competition with Cody Parkey that'll continue in training camp later this month.

"We feel very comfortable that this guy brings the characteristics that we want in our kicker. He had an outstanding career at Arizona State. He will come in and compete," head coach Hue Jackson said.

"We feel good about our kicker here now, but I don't think you can have too much competition anywhere on our football team. The thing that I love that we are doing is that we are adding players that are on our board at the right time for us. That is most important. He was there. There was an opportunity for us to take another guy to compete, and we did that."

Gonzalez, the 2016 Lou Groza Award winner and first-team All-American, was tabbed by Cleveland in the seventh round but projected as high as a third-round pick.

A star at Arizona State, He became the FBS record holder for most field goals made with 96 out of 116 attempts. In his final season with the Sun Devils, Gonzalez connected on 23-of-25 field goal attempts, including 7-of-9 from over 50 yards. He also sent 126-of-167 kickoffs for touchbacks in 2015 and 2016.

They said it:

"Everybody hopes to be drafted. As a specialist, it's special even more. I hoped to, and I thought I would, I'm just happy it actually did happen the way that it did." — Gonzalez on the NFL Draft

What to expect in the fall?

Browns special teams coordinator Chris Tabor made it clear training camp will offer Gonzalez and fellow kicker Cody Parkey a legitimate, open competition.

"Both guys are really good players. They both had great springs," Tabor said in June, "so I am excited to see in the fall how it transpires and where they go from there."

Tabor also said Gonzalez's route to the Browns doesn't guarantee him anything this fall. "I don't look at it that way because I always look at whoever does the best is going to win the job, regardless if you are drafted or not drafted. I have had players play for us that have been good players that were drafted, and I have had players that have played for us that were not drafted. That status does not mean anything to me."

Parkey, meanwhile, put together a solid campaign in his first season with the Browns. Aside from a "whirlwind" of a debut against Miami in which he joined the club the morning before, Parkey made 20-of-25 attempts and hit 20 of his final 22 kicks.

"They will go out and kick and we will chart them and [chart] everything, and then there are going to be days where we won't chart them where we say we are going to come out and work on things and I don't want them to have the pressure of a charted kick when we are working on something," Tabor said.

"It's not always about – people are always going to make it about makes and misses, and that's obviously a big thing, but sometimes, you can make a make and the ball is going sideways and it banks in and it counts statistically as a make but really that is an ugly make."

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