CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns have placed an added emphasis on special-teams play throughout the first offseason program with Freddie Kitchens as head coach, and coordinator Mike Priefer is putting that time to good use.
Priefer is closely monitoring the kicking competition between Austin Seibert, a fifth-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, and second-year incumbent Greg Joseph.
“I think they are both very similar,” Priefer said after a recent OTA practice in Berea. “I think it is basically how they follow through or how they strike the ball. I think there are slight differences, but they are both strong-legged right-footed kickers.
“For a place-kicker to be effective, he has to have great timing so it doesn’t get blocked off the edge. He has got to have great elevation so he does not get blocked up the middle, and obviously, accuracy. Those three things play into it, and both of those guys do all three things well. We just have to continue.”
While on their own during offensive and defensive periods during the first week of OTAs, Seibert and Joseph struggled with accuracy, but Priefer has liked what they have shown in the team drills.
Over 54 games in four years with the Sooners, Seibert converted 310 of his 315 extra-point tries (98.4 percent) and 63 of his 79 field goals (79.7 percent) for a career total of 499 points. Additionally, Seibert punted 179 times for 7,457 yards, an average of 41.7 yards-per-punt.
During the 2018 season, the 5-foot-9, 213-pound Seibert converted 87 of his 88 extra-point tries (98.9 percent) and 17 of his 19 field goal attempts (89.5 percent). By percentage, it was Seibert’s most successful season as a collegiate kicker.
“Austin was the best kicker we felt coming out this year,” Priefer said. “He was the most experienced. He had, we felt like, the best leg. He had a great Combine, he had a great Pro Day. Spent a lot of time with him in Indianapolis and separately, had a couple of different interviews with him and really felt good about him and his mental approach to the game -- understanding his craft, how he works and how his body works and how he kicks the ball.”
Seibert is the all-time leading scorer in both Oklahoma and Big 12 Conference history and ranks first among kickers in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) in career points, passing the old mark set by former Browns kicker Zane Gonzalez while he was at Arizona State (2013-2016). Additionally, Seibert has the most career extra points attempted (315) and made (310) among all kickers in FBS history.
Seibert is competing with Joseph throughout the remainder of the offseason program and will continue to do so during both training camp and the preseason.
Joseph was signed in the early part of the 2018 season after Gonzalez missed four kicks in a one-score loss at the New Orleans Saints in Week 2.
In 14 games with the Browns last season, Joseph converted 17 of his 20 field goal attempts (85 percent), with all three of his misses coming at distances over 40 yards. Also, Joseph made 25 of his 29 point-after tries (86.2 percent).
“He has worked hard at that, and that was basically the beginning of his approach,” Priefer said of Joseph’s technique.
“He was really inconsistent how he hit that first jab step, and that is what I noticed off of game tape last year. It was a little bit when he was coming out of college a year ago. He is much more consistent, much more effective now.”