The Cleveland Browns season has had highs and lows through 6 weeks and their record sits at 2-4 as they head into their bye week.
At times the offense has looked exciting, especially in their divisional win against the Ravens.
At other times it has looked sloppy and uncoordinated.
The defense has flip-flopped between porous and flimsy. Neither description inspires very much confidence as the team gets into the meat of their schedule with important divisional games ahead.
However, in a surprise development, the unit that has looked the best and most consistent is Special Teams. Along with an overhaul of the coaching staff, the two main skill position “Special Teamer’s” have been replaced.
Those two men are punter, Jamie “Scottish Hammer” Gillan, and kicker, Austin Seibert.
Let’s start with the “Scottish Hammer.” By now you probably know the story of Gillan’s long and unlikely journey from the Scottish Highlands to HBCU football at Arkansas Pine-Bluff, and now to the NFL.
Not only was his journey to American football unlikely, but also just as unlikely was his ability to make the roster and unseat veteran Britton Colquitt.
Remember, Colquitt is a Super Bowl champion who had been with the team for three seasons.
Colquitt comes from a multi-generational family of NFL punters, and while that alone doesn’t mean that he should have kept his job, it’s surely a better pedigree than a former rugby player from Scotland has.
However, the intrepid Scot was unfazed by the challenge and won the job coming out of camp.
It should be noted the courage it took from the front office in Cleveland to not only find this guy and give him a tryout but also to give him the job when he played well in preseason.
They could have stuck to the sure thing they had in Colquitt, but they didn’t. They took a chance and paid off.
In his first month as a professional Gillan was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Month for September.
So far this season he has punted 28 times with the longest of those punts traveling a whopping 71 yards. 16 of those punts landed inside the 20.
That’s a weapon the Browns are fortunate to have when the defense is struggling as mightily as it has been.
The ability to flip the field and give the defense a favorable field position to defend from could, and someday will be, the difference between a win and a loss.
Austin Seibert has had a similar impact in his short time in Cleveland.
The Browns, tired of placekicking frustrations of the previous years, spent a 5th-round draft pick to bring in Seibert from Oklahoma where he was the FBS all-time points leader.
Seibert has had an instant impact on the team improving one of the most disappointing units on the team.
So far this season Seibert is 8/8 on field-goal attempts, with a long of 48. He kicked a 51 yarder in college though, so his range could be extended.
In an NFL where kickers are routinely hitting from a 55-plus yard out, Browns fans should just be happy with someone accurate. We can worry about the distance later.
How many games in the last 5 years have been decided by bad kicking?
Last season alone the Browns had multiple games decided by missed field goals.
The Week 1 tie to the Steelers and the Week 2 loss to the Saints when Zane Gonzalez missed 2 extra points and 2 field goals stick out as particularly egregious.
It seems like in Seibert, Cleveland has solved some of those woes.
While he may not be getting as many plaudits from fans or critics, Dontrell Hilliard is having a solid season returning kicks and punts.
Hilliard is averaging 30.6 yards per kickoff return this season.
While he hasn’t broken one yet, this past week against the Seahawks he nearly took the opening kickoff to the house and had to settle for setting up the offense in a good position to score the game’s first touchdown.
So it’s not all doom and gloom for the Browns.
They’ve improved one of their weakest areas on the field.
Now if they can just get the offense and the defense figured out, they’ll be a complete tea
Until then, we’ll have to settle for the booming left leg of “The Scottish Hammer” and the precise right leg of Seibert.