CLEVELAND — Cleveland Browns punter Jamie Gillan was known for having long distance on his kicks, but even after making the initial 53-man roster at the end of August, he was anything but settled into his NFL career.
A perfectionist at his craft despite his otherwise fun-loving personality, Gillan changed from a three-step technique to a two-step, and he is seeing positive results, as proven by his being named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week after last Sunday’s 40-25 win over the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
“Three-step was just something I chose to do my last year of school just because I thought it was going to help me get more power into the ball, but not realizing the older I get and the more work I put in and the flexibility, it was all going to come together anyway,’ Gillan said.
“Coach Prief one of these days just decided, ‘Hey, let’s see what you have with two-step.’ I had punted the ball just as good if not better than a three-step, and he kind of said at first, ‘No, let’s wait until the offseason.’ Then, we went out again and he said, ‘Let’s see the two step again’, and I two-stepped. ‘You want to do it now?’ I said, ‘Coach, I will do whatever you want, man. We can do this now and get it done,’ He said, ‘Cool’. He kept asking, ‘Are you sure?’ ‘I am absolutely positive.’”
Gillan made the switch starting with the Browns’ Week 2 23-3 win over the New York Jets on Monday Night Football, all in the name of consistency.
In helping the Browns to a 2-2 record over the first month of the 2019 regular season, Gillan launched 20 punts for 831 yards, an average of 41.6 yards per kick. Factoring in returns, Gillan has a net average of 40.6 yards with three punts landing out of bounds, three downed, 11 finishing inside the opponents’ 20-yard line, 10 being fair caught and only four returned.
“We are hoping and what we think is going to happen is eliminating that jab step will eliminate inconsistencies, so catching the ball, flipping it, one-two and it is out of there,” Gillan said. “It should speed up our ops times as a whole because Charley (Hughlett) has a really fast snap and is accurate.
“Catch, flip the ball and it is gone. It should eliminate people wanting to block it because they realize they are not going to get to the ball and all of that stuff. It should be nothing but positive for us.”
Although Gillan has had success in the past with his technique changes, there is still a long way to go for the rookie to find the kind of consistency Browns special teams coordinator Mike Priefer is looking for out of his punter.
“He still is not perfect,” Priefer said. “He is still taking a little bit of a jab at times, which is fine.
“Anytime you are more compact and anytime your steps are shorter, you are reducing the margin for error, to be quite honest. When he does that, his drop is going to be more consistent and he will hopefully get a more consistent punt on a more consistent basis.”